Friday, September 04, 2009

Powers of persuasion

Mayhem is a budding lawyer. He feels the need to argue his case all the time. Since his command of the English language is still a bit limited he falls back on repetition

“I’m not going to do it. No No No no No No. I’m not going to do it.”


“I’ll only do it if you do this. You have to do this first. I’m not going to do it if  you don’t do this  first.”

We are talking about things like wearing shoes in the grocery store, sitting down to dinner, picking up his toys, saying please & thank you, going to your room when a time out is called and going to bed

I have been making the mistake the past 6 months of viewing these statements as part of a dialogue.  I’ll repeat the request, acknowledge his reluctance, try persuasion and worst of all, I will ask him why he doesn’t want to do the thing. This opens whole tangents of protests hitherto unimagined. These episodes almost always end in both of us shouting and him being sent to his room, while I stand over him step by NOT GOING step.

He knows why he has to do them. They are regular routine things that not not protested half the time or more. It always ends with him doing them but apparently Mayhem needs consistent responses for a far longer period of time than Havoc does. Havoc generally drops protest methods after 4-5 tries. He is now settled into a full on pout while doing things he doesn’t want to do, but he does them without arguing. Mayhem though is stubborn and must go on with a behavior for months until he accepts it isn’t working or I find a new method of coping.

I’m now ignoring him. I make the statement, know he hears it from his protest and then go on with my plans as if the protests and deal makings are not being whined and shouted at me. Failure to acknowledge his protests robs him of his attempt to control the situation and leaves him unable to negotiate, and about 75% of the time seems to end with his cooperation

It was bath night. Mayhem likes baths usually but sometimes must protest for forms sake or to keep in practice. So from the living room I hear “I am NOT taking a  bath. NOT NOT NTO NOT. I hate baths. I am not taking one no no no no no. No baths. I won’t take a bath!  I am not taking a bath in small water. ONLY baths in big water. I will only take a bath if you put big water in the tub! REALLY BIG! No small water baths! no no no!”

His voice gets closer to the bathroom as he shouts all this and by the time he gets to the end he is naked and climbing in the tub to supervise just how much water I am putting into it. It took maybe 3 minutes.  Engaging him in a conversation about how he needs a bath, why he may not like a bath, what things I should do to help him adjust to the idea of a bath, etc can & has gone on for as long as 10 minutes.

Last night he didn’t want to lay  down. (he’d woke up at 5 am and was exhausted) He would only lay down if I stayed in the room. The boys have been staying up late playing in their room after bedtime & we had been taking turns staying back there until they were asleep, so this was not an out of the blue request. I sat down. Mayhem rolled and kicked and sat up and played and I told him he needed to stay laying down or I am leaving. Thus began the dialogue which mostly consisted of Mayhem insisting that he could only lay still if I was laying with him, that he didn’t know how to listen, that if I laid down it would help him listen, he doesn’t KNOW HOW TO WISEN MAMA! He can’t lay down. He won’t be good if I don’t lay down with him. He won’t be good EVER because he doesn’t know how to listen.

Laying down with him was not an option because I have in the past, I know how it ends. Not with him laying down, but with him finding some other reason he can’t lay down and some other thing I need to do or that has to happen, and then another. Sooner or later a line has to be drawn. I’ve decided it is at the opening statement I make.

After a couple minutes of Mayhem carrying on I spoke and said “goodnight Mayhem. I am leaving now because you can’t lay down.” and out I went. Followed by voluble protests from Mayhem about how he WILL lay down, he WILL listen, he WILL be good if I come back, just COME BACK! But having heard this speech many many many times over the past 6 months I knew it for bullshit and went in the living room. For the next 15 minutes we were treated to a non stop tirade of threats, bribes and promises from the back bedroom. He won’t ever be good again if I don’t come back there. not ever again. he’ll just be bad forever. No no no no no not going to sleep, not ever unless I come back there. He just needs to tell me one thing, just one little thing. could I please come back so he can tell me one little thing. Just a hug! He just wants to give me a hug! (in an angry yet pathetic & obviously acting voice) Please come back. He;ll be  good. he will listen. “I’ll do anyfing for you mama! Anyfing!”

By this point I had forgotten the initial source of conflict & assumed  he had too and he sounded so tired. So I went back & kissed him.  Bad move. He still clearly remembered his goal and here I was, so he won! It works! What do I mean I am not going to lay down with him? He can only lay down if I lay down with him.  *sigh* I left again and again about 10 minutes of “Don’t weave! Don’t go! I will wisten” came from the back room before exhaustion overcame him

He goes through this phase every few months. I’m hoping that my latest method of dealing with it will help it pass quickly. It seems to be effective with the daytime stuff. Just the bedtime stuff when he is overly tired is really lasting long.

I wish I knew what was waking him up at 5am so I could make it stop. I think that would go a long way toward resolving this.


Creative Junkie said...

It's exhausting, isn't it? I always had to try to remind myself not to engage, to just lay down the law and not give reasons other than BECAUSE I SAID SO.

It is just a stage. Unfortunately, they go through it about 679 times.

SciFi Dad said...

I don't know if this will help, but here goes.

When my daughter was around 20 months or so, she climbed out of her crib. We moved her mattress out of the crib and on to the floor to keep her safe. Unfortunately, this also provided her with the ability to leave her room when she wasn't wanting to go to bed (see also: every frickin' night at bedtime).

We tried staying just outside her room, or down the hall in ours, but she always ran out. We tried a tension gate over the door, but she shook it so hard it fell.

One night, my wife got fed up and closed her bedroom door. She was unable to open it herself. After about five minutes of pleading, we opened it.

My daughter is almost four and a half now, and all we have to do is ask her if she wants her door closed when bedtime issues arise, and the problem disappears.

The bottom line here is to find something your son doesn't want and use that as a consequence for misbehaving at bedtime. Whether it's a closed door, or the absence of a night light or something else. I know using their own fears against them may seem deplorable to some, but ultimately it's about getting them to do what's best for themselves.

Too Many Hats said...

Oh my, that is so hard. Sorry, no words of advice, just hang in there - they do outgrow things. Loved reading words like anyfing and wisen - LOL

Aunt Becky said...

It took me a long time (Ben spoke much, much, much later) to remember that they are not rational beings. Kids are not rational. Trying to reason with them is like nailing Jello to a wall.

Alex is on the cusp of it again, and Ben is too.

I think I need earplugs.