Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In which I fail at discipline

Day 286

Day 11

I felt a bit better today. Not better enough to get up and out of the house for playgroup in the morning, but better enough to get a bunch of laundry done and not be a pathetic lump on the floor that the kids could delight in climbing all over. By noon it was shaping up to be a beautiful day, so I started making plans to take the kids to the park after we dropped off some overdue library books. Alas, Soren dawdled his way through lunch, and thereafter, delayed and delayed getting changed out of pjs, such that by the time he finally got dressed, Eleri was ready for a nap. So she napped, and Soren finished eating and watched some Word World, and I did some calculus.

It ended up being one of those epic nap days where El slept for two and a half hours. She finally woke up again, by which time we were starting to lose daylight. I had been asking Soren to put his pants back on (they still frequently get stripped for potty breaks), but he kept insisting that he needed help. Or saying, "Oh, I can't do dat right now." Grr. So I set him a timer. Ten minutes to get your pants and socks on, or else no park. We still had to go out and drop off the library books, but if he couldn't get his act together before the timer went off, that was all we were going to do on our outing. I thought this would be a good motivator, since the boy loves going to the park.

Well, I was of course wrong, and ten minutes came and went with no change to Soren's state of dress besides the donning of one sock. So I said that was that, no park, hauled his clothes on him and hustled us out the door. He was also refusing to put on a sweater, but I figured that was probably fine for a short car trip to the library and back.

But then we got to the library, and when I hopped out of the car it was just insanely nice outside, and then I got back in the car and the weather reporter on NPR was going on and on about how it was going to get really cold again for the rest of the week and through the weekend, and I looked at the setting sun, and I folded. We went to the park.

I know. I know that was the wrong thing to do. But we'd all been cooped up for days, and it would do both the kids some good to run around outside in the fresh air. Besides, Soren didn't have a sweater, so we wouldn't be able to stay that long anyway. And Soren hadn't been whining and pleading about going to the park after I said we weren't, so it's not as though I would be rewarding that behavior as well.

So we went to the park for about 20 minutes and had a lovely time. There wasn't any fighting or whining when it was time to go, and everyone was in a better mood. I know now that my real mistake was making the "no park" threat in the first place. When I made it, I had every intention of following through. I didn't think I cared one way or another whether we went to the park. But I didn't have sufficient data to make that decision until we got outside. I knew it was nice out, but I didn't know it was that nice out. And as we were coming home from the library, I knew a trip to the park would be as much a reward for me as it would be for the kids.

So whatever. I failed this time, but I think it was ultimately the right decision. I'll do better next time.

When we got home and were headed down the hallway to our apartment, Soren and Eleri were walking along hand in hand with huge grins on their faces. And that was just about the most adorable thing I've ever seen in my life.


madre said...

You did not "fail". When you threaten a result from behavior and the consequence is immediate, then they can connect the two. Giving in at that point is a great opening for manipulation on their part. Soren would have forgotten the "why" that he didn't get to go to the park after riding in the car and getting focused on other things. The fact that he didn't whine about it means he really didn't quite get it. Gah! Don't be so hard on yourself :) I'm glad the day turned out well for all!

Megan said...

Good call Madre! (not that I'm surprised) But still I must poke fun.
BWHAHAHAHA They were probably holding hands and speaking in mind language saying "oh, isn't Mom just a push over. Did you see the moment she crumbled? The park was incredibly stimulating as always, would not you concur?" HAHAHA but of course I'm kidding because I totally and completely (seriously) agree with Madre.

susan said...

You guys know I tend toward hyperbole for comedic effect, right? ;) But thanks for the encouragement.

I'll admit though (Megan), the moment I put on the blinker in the car to go to the park instead of home, I heard your voice in my head saying "Nooooo! Stand firm! You'll have years of manipulation ahead of you for this. You hear me? Years!"