Sometimes, I think it’s important to try and stick to my guns; even though doing so often makes me feel like the worst mum in the world. I have a particularly challenging 3 year old at the moment – one minute he is a squidgy, cuddly, fun-filled delight; and the next he is pushing me and pushing me to see how unreasonable he can get away with being. Before this evening’s episode, he was being particularly delightful; but then I made the mistake of asking him to do some tidying up.
One of my rules is this: after a meal, we take our plates/cups/cutlery to the sink. Pretty straightforward, and when my boys are in a good mood they enjoy being helpful. I’m pretty strict on this even when they’re not in the mood to be helpful – I think it’s important for them to realise that life is easier if we all work together, and that I’m not there to do everything for them.
Tonight, the challenging boy agreed to take one thing only to the sink. Apparently I would take the rest. Yes, I know it would have been quicker for me to clear the table myself rather than subject myself to a spectacular meltdown that lasted all the way through until bedtime; but that’s not the point is it? I wasn’t giving in. I told the 3 year old that there would be no more playing until he’d taken his things to the sink, even though I wasn’t too sure how I was going to enforce this. Apparently he wanted to go and sit on the naughty step anyway…… Yes, he’s one of these boys who thinks the naughty step is a treat.
Off he went, and before long he was trying to escape to play in his room. So there I was, for a good 10 minutes forming a human barricade at the bottom of the stairs to try to prevent the boy from getting his own way, trying my best to effectively parent the other two boys from my stationary position.
I decided to shift the focus to encouraging some general tidying, given that toys had been tipped out over every available space. I set the stopwatch – if boys weren’t tidying up by the time the stopwatch went off, I would be choosing a selection of toys to keep for myself (hooray).
The 5 year old, who’d had nothing to do with any of the mess, went on to tidy most of it up.
The other 3 year old attempted to juggle 4 toy eggs.
The mid-meltdown 3 year old decided to throw a few more toys across the room, and chuck some fridge magnets on the floor too – why not, I suppose.
At a loss as to how to stop a 3 year old boy rampaging around the house, I finally decided to take him upstairs, close the stairgate and start running the bath. At which point, the boy announced that HE WAS NOW READY TO TIDY UP.
Of course he was, a whole hour later.
Sticking to your guns – is it over-rated? Should I just have cleared the plate and bowl myself and avoided all the fuss? But if I had, who’s to say the meltdown wouldn’t have happened over something else at that hideous over-tired time of day? I don’t have any answers. All I know is that willful 3 year olds can be infuriating little creatures. And that going tap dancing helped me feel better.
So maybe that’s the moral of the story – if you have a tricky three year old, find a tap class.