I’m starting to wonder if my daughter takes me seriously. This thought popped into my head one evening after the kids finished their bath. Ted attempted to put prescription oil (for eczema) on Lauren with little success. I heard the debate upstairs and continued cleaning the dinner dishes. I didn’t want to get involved. What sane adult would? A sound bite:
Ted: Put the oil on!
Lauren: No I won’t.
Ted: You need to do it!
Lauren: I’ll do it myself.
Ted: Then do it!
Ted: Get back here!
Uh oh. Next thing I knew she was standing next to me in her altogether. I asked why she wasn’t wearing her pajamas.
Lauren: (sobbing) Because Daddy won’t let me put my cream on. By. My. Self.
I escorted my naked daughter back upstairs and instructed her to put the oil on solo, showing her the places where she needed the prescription most. She refused. I tried to keep my cool, reminding myself that we were closing in on bedtime. Soon I would be on the couch watching Modern Family and sipping tea.
Me: If you don’t put the oil on, I’m going to do it for you.
I should have walked away. But then she would go to bed without the prescription. I tried again and again, until I had to use force.
Me: (struggling, red-faced). You’re. Going. To. Put. This. On. Period.
Then there was no end to the histrionics from mother and daughter. There was purposeful drooling (Lauren). A nightgown tug of war (started by yours truly). And then me, demanding, “You will go to the bathroom before bed!” That’s when my smart husband came in to whisk me away.
If I appeared on the Supernanny, and there was a play by play of this disciplining nightmare, I would get ten demerits for losing my cool. Plus more points off for yelling. Then I would be reminded that little ones—especially 4-year olds—love to test their boundaries.
Either way, I decided to check out the book 10 Days to A Less Defiant Child by Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D—a regular on the Today Show circuit. I’m not really a how to book kind of person. Like my daughter, I don’t enjoy people telling me how I should conduct my business. But after this particular argument, some guidance seemed reasonable. I scoured the chapter on 10 Ways to Stop Yelling. The author suggests verbal cues. For example, just about the time when you feel your blood pressure rising, remind yourself—and your child—out loud, “I know you’re tired, but you need to listen.” This tactic seems so simple, but I have to admit I like the technique.
Still, I wonder, is it possible for parents to keep their cool at all times?