Monday, February 23, 2009

Remedial Parenting

If Peter weren't such a firecracker, I don't think I'd ever have started this blog. It's been my therapy.

We've had our good phases and bad phases, but the past month has been unlike anything we've experienced yet. Instead of peace with periodic interruptions of strife, we've had continuous strife with periodic moments of peace. I began to worry something might really be wrong with my child. Three tantrums before 8:00 a.m.? That just can't be normal.

Stuck at home without a car, I set up a phone appointment with a counselor who works with young children.

After setting this up, I realized something: my mother kept Peter for five nights and swears he was absolutely pleasant the entire time. Furthermore, he's never been to time out at school, he learns easily, makes friends easily... These are not the marks of a child with a mood disorder or some other cognitive issue.

The problem (gulp) is me.

I talked to the counselor, who felt that Peter's recent issues have to do with Charlotte-- that Peter is fighting for attention and control. She said everything I described falls into the normal range for a very spirited three-year-old.

Come to think of it, in the past month I have been somewhat absentee. When we first brought Charlotte home, I did all I could to assure Peter of his place in my heart. As we fell into a new pattern, and he showed nothing but affection for his little sister, I slacked off.

Per the counselor's instructions, I am to do two things:

1) Spend thirty minutes of uninterrupted playtime with Peter while Charlotte is asleep. (This has been... amazing... and I'll have much more to blog on this another time.)

2) Enforce a stricter consequence for tantrums and disobedience. I had been spanking (which worked great until lately), sending Peter to his room, or putting him in time out, depending on his infraction. Now I am to do a time out that doesn't begin until his fit is over-- and that starts over if he talks or screams during it. Perhaps this is how time out was supposed to work all along? I missed the memo.

Anyway, I'm glad she warned me that as I start this program with a child like Peter, it might take an hour to get one 3-minute time out, since he'll be fighting to have the last word. We did have one 56 minute time out. Other time outs have ranged from twenty minutes to, amazingly, just three.

This has been hard work, because I'm not always in the mood to enforce it the way I have to. But as the counselor warned, if I slack up even once, a strong-willed child is going to take advantage of me fast.

I know that she is right.

So now I'm left with mixed feelings. I do believe that I can get things with Peter back to a good place, but I don't know how long it's going to take. And sometimes, I just feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew with this child. I keep repeating Philippians 4:13, asking God to give me the faith to believe it.


Plucker Family said...

Cyber hug! You can do it! I be praying for your strength!

Darcy and Jeremy said...

I didn't have to finish reading your blog before I knew what was up with "Peter". Sounded too familiar! :)