Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On screaming and hitting

You already know it's going to be a good one, right?

So, Barak is three and a half. He has tantrums. He tests limits. He does a whole lot of things he shouldn't do. I remind myself, through gritted teeth, that this is a normal developmental stage. I try, very very hard, to be patient.

Iyyar is one and a half. Mostly, he's still a baby. He's way easier than Barak in a lot of ways. He's mellow. He's happy-go-lucky. But now he has a temper. He's starting to experiment. And he wants to do everything Barak does.

When Barak was Iyyar's age, if he did something like hit me, I would just say "no hitting!" very sternly, put him in his crib, walk away, and close the door. I'd come back a minute later, say "no hitting" again,and carry on. Barak didn't hit much.

When Iyyar hits, I say "no hitting," very sternly. But Barak laughs his head off. And Iyyar sees Barak laugh, and he giggles, and then the two of them reinforce each other. If Iyyar hits Barak, Barak thinks it's funny.

I've tried explaining to Barak that if he laughs, Iyyar thinks it's okay, so he shouldn't laugh when Imma's saying no. But he does. He just thinks it's funny, so he laughs.

To be fair, the only time either of them hits is when they're really, really frustrated or hurt. Iyyar banged his head on the side of the dresser today and got mad enough to hit the dresser. (Both my kids do this--they get mad at inanimate objects. I once saw Barak bite his Lego because they wouldn't stay stacked the way he wanted.)

Now, I know that they are boys and they are brothers, and I don't think any two boys ever grew up together without whaling on each other every so often. My friend Chana has three boys, aged 4, 6 and 8 (or so), and her policy is that she only interferes when she thinks there is about to be a medical emergency. I don't think that that's completely unreasonable, and understand its sanity-preserving attributes, but I also have a deeply entrenched attachment to the "We. Do. Not. Hit." policy that is currently in place.

This evening was pretty difficult. Iyyar didn't nap enough, and both kids woke up way too early. They did pretty well throughout the afternoon, considering, but by bedtime, we had reached meltdown. Iyyar clearly needed to go to bed, and was happy to get into his crib with his blankets. Barak, however, decided that he was not going to bed. He kvetched, he protested, he did everything at a snail's pace, he procrastinated and whined. And when we finally got there, he simply refused, point-blank, to get into bed. What are you going to do now, Imma?

What indeed? He's not in a crib anymore, so I can't just put him in there and walk away. I did not want to get into a situation of trying anything physical. I wanted to stay calm. So I said, Barak, it's time to go to bed now, and I just turned out the lights, closed the gate into the kitchen, went into my office and closed the door, leaving a hysterically screaming Barak in the hall outside his room. I got some chocolate pretzels and started reading the Education section of the Times while Iyyar started wailing too. Barak was howling that he needed a toy (the latest in a looooong stream of bedtime-delaying tactics) and Iyyar was howling because Barak was howling. I ignored it. MHH came home and told me about his day. The howling continued. I asked him to go and make sure nobody was actually hurt. He left. I heard quiet, then the distinctive creak of the glider rocker. He came back. "I gave Barak the stuffed sheep and rocked Iyyar. Why was he so upset?" "He was upset because Barak was upset." "Why was Barak upset?" "He didn't want to go to bed." "Oh."

I wonder if it's time for a bedtime sticker chart. But when he gets like this, there is no motivation or threat that works--he just hates, hates, hates going to bed, and always has, and judging by his father and grandfather's attitude toward bedtime, probably always will.

Maybe we'll do the sticker chart anyway. Can't hurt, right? But I am open to other suggestions.


k. said...

I'd suggest Benadryl before bed, but that may just be the stress of dealing with a preteen.

When we had tag-team bedtimes with the kids, we decided that a little gentle bribery wouldn't totally scare A. and turn her into someone without moral direction who will then grow up to be in the legislature in NJ. (Sorry). So when H. went to bed and was sleeping peacefully, etc., if A. cooperated that night with getting into bed, she got a treat the next day. Treats included staying up and extra ten minutes at bedtime, an extra story, or, if we were really desperate, caaaaaandy.

We did stickers at bedtime and for chores, too--and if you got a sticker each day, then you got the most bestest thing money could buy: a book. But stickers didn't last long for us--H. tore them off the chart and pasted them all over her face.

uberimma said...

So far the sticker chart's been working really well. The deal is that if he goes to sleep nicely (meaning, no screaming, basically) the next morning he gets a sticker to put on his chart. When he has five stickers he can pick a treat (a lollipop, a cookie from the bakery, a Matchbox car, or something similar). I think a Matchbox car a week or thereabouts is a perfectly reasonable bribe for low-hysteria bedtimes. Right now he's got three stickers, earned on three consecutive nights, so here's hoping...

Oh, and Iyyar got his first time-out on Friday. Must blog about that one. It had an amazing (positive) effect on Barak's behavior.

Rua said...

I can't wait to hear about Iyyar's time-out and Barak's reaction.