Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pro Choice

So, I was in the middle of all my Mother-of-a-Terrible-Three-Year-Old dread last week when I decided to Google the situation and see if I could get some help, guidance and/or comfort. Lo and behold, I found a chat room (sorry, can't remember which one) where this woman was telling her story of woeful 3-year old behavior.

She asked her son what he wanted for breakfast, made it, then he refused to eat it. He screamed, cried, carried on, and stubbornly wouldin't listen to his mom's demand that he stop playing with his Play-doh and tell her what he'd like to have for breakfast. The bad behavior went on and on. In short, it was a very bad scene.

Lots of people commented on her post, but the advice differed from person to person. Several people said, Don't give a 3-year old a choice - make him something for breakfast and that's what he has to eat - end of story. In fact, they were saying not to let a 3-year old make any decisions - regarding dress, food, activity - nothing. At that age, they said, a child is incapable of making appropriate decisions.

But then there was a good number of people in the "choice" group. Yes, they said, offer choices. Do you want this or this for breakfast? Okay, you want this - this is what you will eat. And so on. Offering choices makes a child feel involved and in control of the situation, was the reasoning behind this camp's opinion.

And I have to whole-heartedly agree with them. When I give Sweetie options and offer her choices, she is much more likely to fall in line and behave reasonably.

For example, I've always had trouble getting her out of the tub. More often than not, I have to have Hubby come forcably lift her out for me because she absolutely refuses to cooperate. But last night I took a different tack.

I asked Sweetie if she would get out of the tubby after I counted to 5 or 10. She answered that she'd get out after I counted to 36. Okay, fine. That's no problem. I counted to 36 and she listened excitedly. Then, when I was done, she said,

Whoa, that was a lot of numbers!

And she got out of the tub.

Then this morning, after I finished readying myself for work, I sat down with Sweetie and asked her another question.

Will you help me get you dressed or can I cut your fingernails? You have to pick one or the other.

After a small amount of defiance (Nothing! No choice!) she agreed to the nail cutting. Great! She really needed it done and calmly sat on my lap as I did my thing. I'd just leave the getting her dressed thing to Nana.

Finally, a couple nights ago she was having yet another drama-filled evening. Well, not really the whole evening, but the closer it got to bedtime, the whinier she got. So I gave her a choice - either stop crying, let me cut your fingernails (I've had to cut them for awhile now, you see) and get to stay up a little longer, or just go to bed right now. She chose bed.

Yes, she gave us a bit of trouble that night, with some escapage, but we half expected that. She eventually settled down and slept through the night.

So - I'm definitely a Pro-Choice Mama. I'm now getting Sweetie involved in choosing her clothes (what color do you want to wear today?), what games we're going to play, and which of these 2 things would she like to eat for lunch?

I'm glad I've chosen to give Sweetie choices. It's allowing us to make it through these trying days with a little more reason and a little more comfort. For us, it's working well.

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