On Friday, I wrote about my plan to have a whine-free outing with L called Operation Stop Whining. I think it’s the bane of any parent’s existence, and I can’t handle it for years to come. So I’m trying to figure out how to make it stop.
The morning started out like any other Saturday morning: home-cooked breakfast, a bit of cartoons, grumpy attitude. But this time I was absolutely determined to be patient, kind and caring, hoping that it would somehow make a difference. According to the plan laid out on Friday, I asked him to tell me a few things that he’d like to do that day, and explained that we’d pick one or two things and do them in the afternoon. He said he’d like to go bowling and play a video game with me. Sounds good; let’s try to do those things. I tried very hard not to let things escalate during the morning hours. When it became unavoidable, we did send him to his room until he could calm himself down.
There was lots of whining, yelling, stomping and door-slamming coming from his room. He’d start to calm down a little bit, revisit his anger, say incredibly disrespectful things, melt down, get sent back to his room, we’d give hugs, he’d flop onto the floor and say, “no one will even give me hugs!”, get sent back to his room, etc.
This went on for about three hours.
At one point during all of this, he was smashing toys together to get a response out of me. I told him that he may not break toys just because he’s angry, to which he responded (complete with his little side-to-side head tilt), “They’re my toys; I can break them if I want.” So I wiped them off of his dresser onto the floor, took out a garbage bag and started to fill it. Well, this seemed to reach him because the snot face he was sporting suddenly shifted to one of devastation.
I took the dad stance: “when you buy your own toys, you can do whatever you want with them, but Mom and I paid for these things, and if you don’t want them, I’ll give them to kids who do!”
Dad of the Year Award material, right there. Ugh.
He eventually calmed down by early afternoon with the help of what I would call his lovey (a lullaby toy from when he was a baby) and Mom. I congratulated him on doing an awesome job of using his lovey to calm himself down while giving him big squeezes.
We then revisited our afternoon bowling plans. Going from what you guys suggested on the Facebook page, I proceeded confidently with the plan to stop whining in its tracks. L and I discussed expectations from the very beginning: how we’d rent shoes and find a ball, how we’d try to get at least one strike because strikes are difficult to get, how we’d get two turns each unless we got a strike and, most of all, how he’d be in charge of fun. I made it clear that I would be responsible for having my own fun, but that he was in charge of making sure he was having fun.
And, by God, while we were bowling, we had a great time. I’d ask him periodically how the fun was going and if he was still OK with being in charge of fun, and he’d answer yes, he was having fun. There were a few moments when he required encouragement and reassurance, but he did really well. I’d like to say that we also did a really good job of staying patient and positive while trying not to hold high expectations. It’s a balancing act.
We headed home for some dinner, then decided to take the boy to McDonald’s as a treat and so he could play with some other kids. He put up a little resistance when it was time to leave, but it was easily handled.
When we got back home, he wanted to play a video game with me (Rayman for the original PlayStation). So we sat together and played Rayman for the better part of an hour or so. (He mostly let me play while he watched because I’m “the expert at Rayman.”) But when I failed to make it past the Allegro Presto area of Band Land and it was getting to be bedtime anyway, we decided to turn off the game and pick up again from the last save point at another time…
There were honest-to-God tears streaming from the boy’s eyes and a look of sadness and anger accompanied shouts of “now we’re gonna have to start over at Band Land!” He was so angry at me for dying too many times in the game and was devastated that we’d lost so much progress. He was giving Mom such a hard time (again with the nasty, disrespectful, ungrateful attitude after bowling, McDonald’s and video games) that he lost video video game privileges for 2-3 days, depending on his behavior on Sunday. We’ve explained many times that if he continues to melt down after playing–or just watching–video games, he would not be allowed to play them. Gotta follow through on that stuff.
He also told me (again, with the bobble head thing), “fine, take all of my toys, Chris!” So I did. I left him a handful of stuffed animals that were on his bed and took everything else to the basement. Will it have any effect? Probably not, but I can at least show him that I don’t take that stuff lightly.
Incidentally, he didn’t make it Sunday, but it’s not entirely his fault. We decided to go to IKEA, which is always really difficult for him since that place is like the dang Bermuda triangle to me and Mom. We lose all sense of time there. He was good for the first 90 minutes, then he wanted to eat. So we ate lunch then let him play at Småland for an hour, which seemed to go by in all of 15 minutes. As soon as he had to leave Småland he was ready to go home. But we still had shopping to do, so we bribed him with ice cream. Well, that lasted all of 30 seconds. We did what we needed to do, which somehow took another three and a half hours. So, yeah, it was a nightmare, but it’s our fault. We didn’t respect his limitations.
So, did any of this actually work? Was it all worth it? Considering the fact that the 90 minutes or so we spent at the bowling alley was virtually whine- and meltdown-free–regardless of the morning and bedtime fiascoes–I’d say yes. Having expectations for a successful outing are OK as long as you’re prepared to shift gears if/when things don’t go as planned. Lots of prepping helped, and I think putting him in charge of his own fun made some difference.
We can’t always do what L wants to do, but we can try prepping for everyday activities now and see if that helps with trips to Target and the like. And maybe–just maybe–one day…
The whining will stop.
P.S. Yesterday, without thinking, I called L “Honey” like I do my biological kids. I’m getting there. 🙂