Thursday, May 1, 2014

How To Out-Stubborn Your Stubborn Child

When my husband and I were first dating, he and my best friend would tease me.

"And does she dig her heels in for no reason and refuse to let it go?" he would ask her.

"Yes, and does she do that cute little foot stomp sometimes?" she would ask back.

All the while, I'd fume with a smile on my face, not letting them know they had hit a nerve.  They knew anyway.

Fast forward to now: I have two stubborn children.

My husband finds no end of joy in explaining that genetic (or is it behavioral?) trait.  Yes, they get it from me.
 How To Out-Stubborn Your Stubborn Child

Case in point, my 7-year-old son has been regressing in the mornings.  I'm guessing it's normal, but nonetheless, irritating.  He demands help for the smallest of tasks: picking clothes, getting dressed, walking up or down the steps.  Mind you, if he's motivated he can do all of those things and more as independent as my 10-year-old.  This usually happens on weekend mornings at 7:00 when I wish he was independent enough to make his own breakfast and, while he's at it, a cup of coffee for his bleary-eyed mother.

This morning was not one of those independent mornings.

This morning, in fact, was the complete opposite of those independent mornings.

This morning he was helpless and stubborn.

My first trick for dealing with stubborn behavior is to be playful:  "Come on, let's go upstairs together to get dressed.  Hop on board!  Next stop: Platform Nine and Three Quarters!"

He just stared and smiled.

I coaxed again, a little more firmly, but he didn't budge.  I was holding two cups of coffee, one for me and one for my husband -- because I'm sweet and bring him coffee every morning.  I needed to get upstairs before my wrists gave out.  He needed to get upstairs before his dad and sister headed to school.  No one was budging.

"Okay, well, I need to get upstairs.  I'm done waiting."

And with that, I headed up the first few steps.

"Noooooooooooo!!!!!!!!"  he protested.

I explained that I had waited and was done waiting and he needed to man-up.

He collapsed at the bottom of the stairs, crying that I said I'd help him and I didn't.  That I was being mean.  I turned around and saw him standing now, with his arms crossed.  He had stubbornly dug in.

My husband and my daughter both tried to persuade him to move.

No luck.

My husband started acting like he was going to cave and go get him.

"You're enabling him!!!"  I yelled from my daughter's room where I was turning out lights.

He backed off.

Then I had to switch to ultimatums:  "If you don't make your way up these stairs in the next minute, you're on your own.  I'll pick out your clothes, but you get dressed, brush your hair and teeth, and come back downstairs without me."

He didn't like that.

"Okay, so I'm going to get my coffee and come back downstairs now."

He started to crawl up the stairs, stubbornly complaining that I'm mean and that I lied to him.

"And if you don't straighten up and walk instead of dangerously crawling up the stairs, you'll be in time out."


Guess who won this match?  Queen of the Stubborns, thank you!  And I didn't even need to stomp my foot.

Of course I had to carry him to his room, and hold him onto my lap, but I did it!  I out-stubborned his stubbornness.

Lucky for me, I know what usually happens after willful outbursts like this; my son is filled with remorse and apologizes.  He cries and cries and hugs me and apologizes.

I know this is just growing pains.  He's learning to assert his independence, respect authority, and maneuver the shaky ground between the two.  I'm learning, too.  I'm learning to stay firm and love him through the rough patches.  No foot stomping necessary.