Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 10. Ugh.

So, it's a good thing I'm keeping track of my progress with Peanut Butter, because yesterday I felt as though I had taught him nothing. In public. I took my three young ones to the doctor's office for Raindrop's 6 month appointment. It's always a long wait in the waiting room, but there's a play area, and no matter how long we sit waiting, when they call Raindrop's name Christopher Robin always complains that he didn't get a chance to play with the toys very long. Anyway, the two boys played well together for a while, but shortly after someone I knew showed up in the waiting room, they started to fight. And Peanut Butter's immediate response to frustration was not to ask Christopher Robin nicely to change his ways, as I've been teaching him, but to shriek his grating yell. And when I removed him from the toy that caused the conflict, the noise escalated to loud wailing. This wasn't just one incident, but three or four or five. These public displays of bad behavior are so intense for me, because I don't feel free to deal with him the way I would at home, and his bad behavior humiliates me, quite honestly. I know the ideal is to keep what's best for him in mind as I deal with his behavior, no matter where we are, but it affects me much differently when I feel like people are watching me and judging my parenting. The stress and frustration are almost paralyzing. I dealt with both boys in a (outwardly) calm manner the whole time we were in the office, but when we got out to the van I told them both (Christopher Robin was misbehaving by the time we left, too) how disappointed I was by the way they acted, and I stewed the whole way home and as I got them lunch and put them down for naps. One child training book I have explains that if you train your children to be obedient at home, you won't have to worry about dealing with them in public. So when episodes like this happen, I feel like I haven't done my job at home well enough.

I think the experience brought home to me how important it is that I not allow Peanut Butter ever to respond with shrieks no matter how frustrated he is. If I hear him shrieking, I no longer allow him to explain what the problem is to me; I discipline him for the shrieking and then deal with the problem. Even if he has a legitimate complaint against Christopher Robin, his response cannot be to shriek about it.

If there's anything good about yesterday's experience, I guess it's the renewed sense of urgency I get to train my boy to behave like a civilized human at all times. God help me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 9

We had another episode yesterday at the moms' group at my friends house. Shortly after we arrived, both of my boys began to play with their friend's remote controlled train set. There are at least three different remotes for three separate trains, but of course the track is shared, and there are always conflicts arising from that favorite toy. Peanut Butter's intense desire was focused on playing with the train set, and Christopher Robin's train was getting in the way. They both had ideas for what they wanted to do, and the track was small, and they kept interfering with each other. I entreated Peanut Butter to stay calm and explain to Christopher Robin in a normal voice what he wanted, but passions ran high, and there was no room for reasoning or cooperation. After several times of trying to keep Peanut Butter calm and reasonable, I warned that the next frenzied outburst would mean taking a break from the train set. Moments later it came, so I lifted a howling Peanut Butter away from the train, and took him in the other room where the toy box was. When he refused to gain control of himself I gave him a few firm swats, counted to three, and he managed to calm himself and stop his outraged wailing. I took him to the toy box and asked him to find something else to play with. It was not what he wanted, and he told me many times that it was the trains he wanted to play with, but as I held him and showed him other options, he calmed down, and finally settled on holding a fire truck and having me read him a book. It was not the kind of situation I like to have to deal with at a friend's house, but I was thankful that we fought through the situation without an all-out tantrum or having to pack up and go home so soon after arriving.

Sometimes it feels like progress is slow, but I'm encouraged that I'm seeing progress. It gives me hope that over time these tantrums will be a distant memory.

I've been using our Wii Fit program since early January, with the goal of shedding about ten pounds to get to my ideal BMI. Progress is slow, amazingly slow, considering the thought I've been putting into what I eat, and the elimination of bad habits like sitting down with a book and a pile of cookies in the evenings before bed. But the Wii Fit tracks my progress daily, and every day I can see the chart of the progress I've made, so when I zoom out to see where I started to where I am now, and I see that I have indeed lost five pounds, I'm motivated to keep it up. I mean, warm weather is still months away, and if it takes me 2 months to lose the next five pounds, what's wrong with that? I'm still losing them by summer, and forming permanent lifestyle changes in the process. I think if I didn't have the chart of my progress I'd be much more disheartened by the ups and downs of daily weigh-ins.

Anyway, I think this blog is kind of like the chart on Wii Fit. It gives me something tangible to look at and see the progress we've made. Maybe by summer I'll look back and be amazed at how Peanut Butter used to react.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Day 8

Peanut Butter has made improvement in learning to make himself stop howling. It's not his internal sense of honor or desire to do what's right that stops him yet, just fear of the consequence, but it's progress. The more I pay attention the more I see just how often he let go of himself and lost control when something didn't go his way. Charlotte Mason points out that we call someone like that "strong-willed", but it's really a weakness of will that cannot maintain self control and takes the easier path of lashing out and throwing a tantrum. He seems to be getting stronger. He's a boy of extremes, and his sweetness of spirit when he's sweet is intensely touching. I keep praying that God uses his passion someday for something great. All that energy and focus of will aimed towards furthering God's kingdom would be powerful.

We took Christopher Robin and Peanut Butter shopping yesterday. They had saved up enough nickels again for a visit to the dollar store. Plus they each received $5 in the mail from their great-grandparents for Valentine's Day. Peanut Butter always walks in the store and latches on to the first thing that catches his eye. It's not what he ends up buying, but careful deliberation before making a decision isn't his style. This time, since he had more than $1, he actually bought the bag of plastic Easter eggs he grabbed 34 seconds after entering the store. And, I must say, in spite of my skepticism, he has really enjoyed the purchase. He also chose some glow sticks and a package of small plastic "water animals". The water animals package was his favorite item until we went to buy them and found out they had been recalled. My Hero took him to find something else and he came back with two packages of peanut M&M's. He shared the first with Christopher Robin as we were shopping in Walmart, and then he used the second bag to fill each plastic Easter egg with a candy. It's impressive how much fun you can have with items from the dollar store. Christopher Robin chose glow sticks, a little "music box" that's just a toy with buttons on it that play some loud "music" (I was hoping he'd find something else and end up putting it back, but it made the cut), grow capsules that disolve when you put them in water to let out an animal-shaped sponge (he's bought these before and loves them), an FBI kit complete with sunglasses, handcuffs, a gun, even a badge (he was so enthusiastic about it I wished it was a good one that would last a little better), and a shiny sword. I began to wonder by the way he talked on the way home if he actually thought the sword was real. He wanted to take it out in the woods and find a bear or other wild animal he could use it on. Later in the day My Hero took the boys out for a walk in the woods so Christopher Robin could look for bears. He came in glowing and happy, informing me however, that they didn't see any animals. The sword was broken. He was also convinced he could use it to chop down trees, and it broke when he tried to do that. My Hero cut the broken end smooth so now it can be a knife. Or a dagger. In the evening after it was dark and all the toys were put away, My Hero turned out the lights and the boys opened their glow sticks. We spent the last hour of our day playing with glow sticks; making them into little rings, or big rings, or long lines of color, throwing them, waving them, connecting them... We let them take their glow sticks to bed with them, since by morning they'll be used up. Generally I don't like filling our house with cheap junk, but I have to say those boys had more fun from those toys than they've had with some much more expensive ones. I was thinking as they waved their glowsticks last night, that it was an evening they'd probably always remember. It doesn't take a lot of money or even careful planning... it was just an evening we set aside to spend with our kids, and the relaxed atmosphere, I'm convinced, was part of the success.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Day 7: Project Tantrum

Yesterday evening Peanut Butter had a meltdown about getting his pajamas. I stopped it, helped him on with his pajamas as I struggled to keep him from crying, then asked him to explain to me in a calm voice I could understand exactly what the matter was. He told me that he wanted to pick out his pajamas. "Silly Peanut Butter," I said. "If you had asked me nicely to let you pick out your pajamas I would have let you. Instead you cried so loudly I didn't know what you wanted."

I don't know if it made an impression. I can only hope.

Here begins another day of vigilance.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day 5: A Turning Point?

I'm noticing an improvement in Peanut Butter's demeanor. Or maybe it was just a good day yesterday. I know the most important thing is to stay vigilant, or we'll lose any progress we've made by reverting back to the old familiar habits. He still responded with wails several times yesterday, but he also responded with a cheerful, "Okay, Mom," seven or eight times as well. Those were usually after he asked me if it was okay to do something and I said no. At least half the time he was probably expecting a no, since they were things I don't allow, but I'm encouraged every time that cheery response is practiced.

Today I'm working on finishing up recording an audiobook as a valentine gift for My Hero. He spends long hours on the road, and he can put my recordings on his ipod and listen as he drives. The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: King Solomon's Secrets to Success, Wealth, and Happiness draws principles for success from the book of Proverbs. The author lost 9 jobs in his first six years after college, then began to read the book of Proverbs every day and write down what he was learning. It was the turning point for him. His tenth job was partnering with a mentor and starting a company that has made billions of dollars. He attributes his success to the book of Proverbs. It was reading his book that made me realise I need to write down a plan for establishing the habits I want to form in myself and in my kids. I'm hoping today I can finish recording the book (during naptime, and while my boys are visiting my grandparents this morning), so when My Hero gets home from work his gift will be ready.

Friday, February 13, 2009

How to raise a girl to be tough:

Give her an older brother or two.

Project Tantrums: Day 4

Yesterday my focus, resolve, and motivation began to slip. I think chronicling my progress here will be the difference between continuing the project and letting it slowly die. Yesterday I spent the day getting the house ready for a financial class My Hero leads every Thursday evening. It's a few hours worth of work to vacuum, dust, wash the floors, clean the bathroom, make cookies, set up chairs and projector and DVD player. But sprinkle in the daily tasks related to raising three little ones, and it's an intense day. I did not have Peanut Butter's tantrums as my first priority, and I was not as alert and quick to end them as I need to be.

Today I will:
stop Peanut Butter's wailing tone immediately when I hear it begin. When it starts because someone does something he doesn't like, I will stop him and have him voice the problem in a normal voice, or ask the person (Christopher Robin or I, whichever one of us it is) nicely to stop.
take Peanut Butter with me to help me with an interesting task whenever I sense a tantrum begin.
encourage both boys to be strong and not let the naughty noises out when they are denied something they wanted. I wish I had a story or something to give them, especially Christopher Robin, an internal motivation to be strong.

I also plan to spend the day doing fun things together. The house is clean, after all. Currently Christopher Robin's favorite thing is opening his math book and doing a page. There's no writing, just introduction of basic math concepts with big colorful pictures, and it's interactive between him and I (Three people are on a picnic. Who's going? He answers, "Uncle Micah, Uncle Thane, and Peanut Butter." Okay. How many of these apples will each person get? Let's give one to Uncle Micah, now one to Uncle Thane, and now one to Peanut Butter.) Peanut Butter's favorite activity to do with me is to bring me books to read to him. So we'll do lots of that, and maybe even play some wii. That's truly Christopher Robin's most favorite pass time, and we have the rule that we only play it when Daddy's home. Otherwise it would be on all day long. It makes Christopher Robin anxious to see his daddy every evening, and he even told My Hero the other day that he wishes he would stay home with them all day instead of Mommy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Project Tantrums: Day 3

Yesterday was a bit of a break... the kids stayed at a friend's house while My Hero and I went the the Olive Garden and did a little shopping. We picked the kids up at 4, then left them with my parents at 6:15 on the way to our small group.

However, there was at least one opportunity for training. Peanut Butter was sparklingly cheerful when we arrived to pick him up after group. They love my parents' house. He was carrying around a box that holds dominoes, and I took him into the other room to pick up all the dominoes and put them away. I'm not exactly sure what I did "wrong", but as I put the last ones in the box, Peanut Butter began to wail, saying he wanted to do it. I think now that it was probably that he wanted to do the last ones. It had been a long day, and he was tired, and I had no intention of creating unnecessary battles, but truthfully, I wasn't even sure what the matter was. He pointed at the box saying he wanted to do it, but when I took out the one he pointed at and offered it to him to put away, he was not appeased. I tried to get him to stop wailing and tell me in a normal voice what it was he wanted, but he just kept saying that he wanted to do it. My main concern was to end the tantrum quickly, so I pulled off the top dominoes and put them back on the floor to see if that would "fix" the problem. It did. Phew. He stopped crying, picked them up and put them in the box, and all was well again. I'm not sure if I did the right thing. It seems as though I gave in to his tantrum and rewarded him for it. But the truth is that it's more upsetting to him when I don't understand him than when I tell him no. Picking up the last dominoes wasn't something I had to do, and if I had known originally that he wanted to do it I would have let him. If I had an alternative established, a way to nip the tantrum in the bud without giving him what he started to wail about, I could have. I could have explained that this time Mommy picked up the last dominoes, and even though he wanted to, he was not to cry about it, but to be strong and hold in those naughty noises. I don't know if it would have worked. But since I wasn't really sure exactly what the issue was, I didn't even have that option, and he didn't know how to explain it to me any better than to point at the box and tell me he wanted to do it. I'm content that the tantrum was stopped and the habit of that response was ingrained into him one less time... and hopefully he at least gleaned from the experience that Mommy is not out to steal his fun and is happy to let him do things when he lets me know he wants to do them. He's used to sharing jobs with Christopher Robin, who does not always have his best interest at heart. Maybe next time he'll be a little slower to lose control and make more effort to communicate what the problem is.

Normally we would visit the library today for story time, but I think we'll stay home today. After a whole day of not being home yesterday, it's time for a good dose of routine, and training is much easier at home than in public.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Project Tantrums: Day 2

Yesterday we had a big explosion. We go to a friend's house on Tuesday mornings for a "mom's group." We moms talk while the kids play. Yesterday toward the end of the morning Peanut Butter told me he needed to go potty, so I went along and assisted, then "helped" him wash his hands. He loves to push the top down on the soap bottle to squirt soap into his hand, so I held it for him while he tried to do it. The top was stuck at first, but after giving it a try myself and getting it to work, I held it for him to try again. He tried several more times, was unable to get it, so as he tried again I pushed his hand down with my own, and the soap squirted out. That kind of unsolicited help awoke a monster of insulted anger in my little boy, and he began to wail and sob. The tantrum began before I had time to see it coming and avert it, and it was too late to stop it. He would not be appeased with anything. After more than a few unsuccessful attempts to calm him, I decided it was time for us to go home. That made him madder, and after the long painful process of bundling the three kids unwillingly into their coats and boots (or carseat, in the case of Raindrop), we loaded into the van and headed home. The example given in the handbook of a good response to a tantrum like that was to express a broken relationship: sadness, lack of interaction or response until true repentance is expressed. But we were on our way home just before naptime, and silence would certainly result in Peanut Butter's falling asleep on the way home, either ruining naptime, or else, if I did manage to get him in his bed to continue his nap, he surely would have forgotten the episode by the time he awoke. And I wasn't sure letting "the sun go down" without having resolved the issue or dealt with it was very wise. I decided a spanking would deal with the episode in a final way, so we could put the episode behind us without just pretending it didn't happen. Another book I've read about training children explains that when a child has done something wrong, often physical punishment is the healthiest way to deal with their guilt. They feel as though they have paid for their wrong, and they can move on. So I explained to Peanut Butter that his crying when Mommy helped him with the hand soap was naughty, and that he would be spanked for it when we got home. He defended himself in his high pitched, squeaky, "but I've been wronged!" voice. I explained that sometimes Mommy needs to help him even when he doesn't want me to, and it is not okay to cry about it. The ride home is about 15 minutes, and at that time of day I'm usually playing games in the car, like "I spy", to keep both boys awake. Today, whenever I noticed Peanut Butter's eyes getting heavy, I reminded him of the spanking waiting for him when he got home. That woke him right up. He thought of a new tactic to try in order to avert the promised discipline as we were getting out of the van to go inside. He decided he would ask me nicely, "Peese stop spankin' me, Mom." That's how I've taught him to respond when Christopher Robin or another person is doing something he doesn't like (rather than his ear-piercing wail or a hard shove). I remained undeterred, took him to his bedroom, sat on his bed with him, made sure again that he understood what the issue was, and got it over with. As soon as it was done I hugged him and told him how much I loved him, and let him see that as far as I was concerned, the episode was behind us. Then I told him that next time Mommy has to do something he doesn't like, or help him with something when he doesn't want me to, he need to be strong, take a deep breath, and hold those naughty cries in. "Don't let them out. Be strong and brave." He seemed to understand, and a few minutes later, when he and Christopher Robin began to fight about who was picking up which Lincoln Log, I stopped him, showed him how to take a deep breath and stop the crying, and exhorted him again to not let those naughty noises out. He listened, and did a good job. Hooray! I think I may have helped him understand the concept of fighting against the naughtiness. And a couple of seconds later, when I told Christopher Robin something he didn't like and he began to fuss and whine, I told him the same thing. "Be strong. Don't let those naughty noises out."

I have started insisting Peanut Butter make his voice calm and normal before he can tell me what he's grieved about. It all seems to be an exercise of learning self control. He's a strong little man. He just need to aim all that strength and passion towards learning the good and silencing the bad.

Chapter 9 in Laying Down the Rails is about breaking a bad habit, and one step she mentions is to "identify the core trait of the defect and take it in the opposite direction mentally; figure out what that trait would look like if it were used for good." What is the core defect of giving in to passionate outbursts of anger? Is it standing strong against them, like I've begun to teach him to do, or is there a more active response? I know when someone diets they're encouraged to replace the bad food with good, or to replace snacking with a different activity. Is there a different activity I could give Peanut Butter to do instead of the tantrum? I guess that's what I'm doing when I distract him from the tantrum by letting him help me clean the bathroom or tend the wood stove.

Ugh. The kids are awake now, and I return to the keyboard agitated and frustrated. I changed baby Raindrop's diaper, then put her on the floor and searched for something new for her to play with. I decided on the blue tote bag, picked it up and set it down in front of her. Peanut Butter decided he wanted to be the one to give her the blue tote bag, and started his wailing insistence. I asked him to come with me and help me clean the bathroom, and he threw himself down and continued to cry about the tote bag. I took his hand and asked him to come to the basement with me to check the wood stove, but he sank away and complained louder about the tote bag. Now what?? I put my hands over my face in despair. Now I'm showing him my disappointment and displaying a broken relationship, but what if it doesn't bring him to repentence??

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Project Tantrum: Day 1

Incident #1: Not long after they woke up, Peanut Butter was sitting at the island with Christopher Robin when something triggered his whining/crying voice. I instantly asked Peanut Butter to come down in the basement and tend the wood stove with me. He was afraid for the first few steps that I was taking him to be spanked, but when he realized we really were just going down in the basement together, he cheered up. I checked the stove, and the big log I'd put in not long ago was blazing well. "Oh, I checked it, and it doesn't need more wood right now," I said to him. I held his hand as we went back up the stairs, and he cheerfully returned to his seat at the island, the problem forgotten (I can't even remember now what it was).

Incident #2: The boys were at the table eating lunch while I was trying to finish my Wii Fit workout, which had been incessantly interrupted for the past hour and a half, due in large part to little Raindrop's misery from a runny nose, congestion, and teething. I looked up and saw that Peanut Butter had stripped his clothes off. I asked him if he had gone potty, and he said no. I asked him if he needed to go potty, and he said no. I figured it was close enough to nap time that if I made him go, he wouldn't need to do it again, so I told him to go potty before putting his clothes back on. I accompanied him to the bathroom and assisted in the process, then gave him his clothes to put on by himself (something that most of the time he insists on doing himself anyway). He began to whine and cry and wanted me to do it for him. This was a battle, not a temper tantrum, so I realized I would have to deal with it differently. The problem: he wanted me to stop what I was doing and get him dressed. This is a familiar and tiring pattern with Peanut Butter. He'll follow me down the stairs to the basement and insist I carry him back up. I don't, but he then "punishes" me with his wailing cry that lasts until I deal with him. I never reward that behavior, but it continues anyway. This time he took his clothes off himself, but was insisting that I put them back on him. I suppose it's a power struggle. The crying tantrums usually spring from something being done differently than his way. My first priority was to stop the tantrum, so I insisted he stop the crying by the time I counted to three. He didn't the first time, but after a couple of firm swats on his bum, he gained control of himself and stopped. I told him to put his undies on, and he did, but started whimpering, and when I told him to continue dressing by putting his pants on, he began the crying whine saying, "Me want you do it, Mom." After another firm swat, he stopped again, and dressed himself. I felt like I maintained the upper hand in that situation, but it bothers me to have to prod him so much. I want him to be motivated to obey quickly and thoroughly without step-by-step coaching. I hope that will come as he gets a little older and is more able to motivate himself, or to be motivated by ideas, not just physical discipline.

Incident #3: Christopher Robin and Peanut Butter went outside, bundled in their snowsuits, hats, mittens, and boots, to shovel snow yesterday morning. After being outside just a few minutes I heard Christopher Robin's crying. I opened the window and asked what was wrong, and he said his boot had come off his foot in the snow. I encouraged him to put it back on, but his wails rose to meet me and he insisted he could not. This type of situation discourages me, because I want my boys to learn to solve their own problems when they can, not to sink into blubbering helplessness as a first response. But how to get them there? Since focusing on forming habits, I realized that, much as I didn't want to go outside in my exercise shorts to help, I needed to stop his wailing before the response became any more habitual to him than it already was. So I put Raindrop in a deep chair where she would be safe, ran to the basement, put on My Hero's big boots and my jacket, and ran outside to Christopher Robin. "Stop," I said. "First, stop crying. Be strong and brave." He stopped the noise and sniffled at me. "When you get into trouble, look around and figure out what you need to do to fix it." I dug his boot out of the snow and put it back on his foot. I explained that as he walked through the snow, he could watch out for deep patches and walk in Daddy and Mommy's footprints as much as possible to keep from getting himself into trouble again. I was encouraged by his self-possession, as if he really heard me and felt empowered to take control and watch out for his own well-being.

This incident isn't Peanut Butter's, and isn't directly a tantrum incident, but it certainly felt related, and I felt like I formed a new response to the "I'm too helpless to help myself" situation. I think if I keep responding in ways that encourage my kids to do their own problem solving when they can, we'll see some progress.

Most of the other smaller incidents were not so much avoiding tantrums as squelching the whining and crying that pollutes the atmosphere of our home. It's a lot of work, but I'm hopeful that a week or two of vigilance will produce good results. Charlotte Mason talks about getting your kids on your team...helping them understand that the real battle is between them and their bad habits and natural tendencies. Giving them examples of strength and courage, and helping them understand that only the strongest and most determined are able to overcome the urge to do what they want to do in order to do what's right. I want to find some stories that will inspire them in that idea.

I think I would lose hope of ever being able to parent well, if not for God's promises in Proverbs and James 1 assuring me that if I ask Him for wisdom, if I search for it like a treasure, God will give it to me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ending the Tantrums

Hmmm... This is interesting. I was planning to work on establishing a new habit this week, but when I flipped to the index of the Habits Handbook I've been reading I saw at the end a section on breaking bad habits, particularly, Temper Tantrums. This is a daily trial, many times an hourly trial, for me with Peanut Butter. Two mornings ago he awoke before Christopher Robin or Raindrop. It's unusual that he's up before Christopher Robin, and when he came out with his arms full of his blanket and his stuffed animal Puppy, I was in the basement tending the fire. I came up the stairs when he was on his way down to see me, so I scooped him up and we sat in our comfy chair together, and I told him how much I loved him. He asked me in a whispered voice to sing the "Peanut Butter" song, the simple one I half made up that uses his real name and tells him what I love about him. So I sang to him, and after a few minutes of snuggling, I asked him where he would like to sit while I started my exercising. He chose the couch, so I set him down and began. It wasn't more than a few minutes later, after such a good beginning some little thing that I don't remember now upset him, and he began his habitual wail, the one loud enough to wake the house and cancel all other noise. I have tried ignoring him, which doesn't work. I have tried sending him off to another room to cry it out, but it doesn't deter him from future tantrums at all. Spanking just makes him cry harder, and he won't be distracted from it when he's in the middle of one. The tantrums poison our days, and if anything they're becoming more frequent instead of less.

So my first focus will be on breaking him of the habit. Chapter 13 tells a story of a young boy who has had tantrums all his life, and how his family makes a plan to help him break the habit. The idea is to give him something else to do before the tantrum is able to begin. So at the first sign of it coming on, to give him a task, a privilege he loves to do, for him to focus on instead. For Peanut Butter, I think it will be to come down in the basement with me to tend the woodstove, or to help me clean the bathroom (believe it or not, it is a trememdous pleasure for a two year old boy to be allowed to wipe down a counter or the toilet with a cleaning wipe). I'll think of others, too. I think this is the most important step for now. To be on constant alert for the tantrum coming on and distract him from it. It retrains his brain, and loosens the grip of the bad habit on his psyche. However, inevitably I'll miss, and a tantrum will happen again. The next step, when one happens, is to express sorrow and a broken relationship. Not to allow the sun to shine again and all to be well when it's over, but to make perfectly clear that our relationship has been hurt. Always to express love, but that love is covered in sorrow, and there is no joy. When finally true deep repentence is expressed, then a talk about how we can make sure it won't happen again. I'm not sure how well my two year old will be able to understand this idea... the five year old in the story was given the task of running around the paddock four times when he felt the "cross-man" coming on. But if I can somehow get him to take responsibility for fighting the temptation for tantrums with his own will, I think we'll see much better progress. If I can't get him to understand that concept, it may just be my job for a while to make sure the tantrums almost never happen.

So. We'll see what happens. Today's task: catch him at the very beginning of each tantrum before it starts and give him something wholesome and appealing to do instead.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A New Project

I've been reading a lot lately, and here's what I'm learning.

In order to reach a goal, you need a vision. You need to know what you're wanting to achieve.

For me, I have lots of vague goals that all point towards the ultimate goal of raising my kids well. I want them to be well-educated, have strong character, for my boys to be strong and brave, for my girl to be noble, industrious, and lovely. According to what I've been reading, I'll most likely not see those goals realized without a specific vision of what exactly I want to achieve, written out, and then a step by step plan detailing how to get there.

I think I'll use as my guide, at first at least, my Charlotte Mason's Habits Handbook that I've been reading through since I received it at Christmas. It's full of so many good habits that I'd love to establish for myself and then teach my children. But just reading about them and acknowledging that they're worthy pursuits isn't enough. I need to write down a plan of action and start working towards each new habit. So I have a new task for each morning as I sit with my cup of coffee and God's Word and plan my day.

First, I will get out of bed immediately when my alarm goes off. I was doing well with that, and then started slacking off, so that each morning I think of a new reason why I can spend just a few more minutes drinking in the comfort of my pillow. No more. I need every minute rising at 5:30 allows me, because by 6:30 my boys are ready to start their day, and my quiet planning time is gone.

Then, I think I will choose one habit to try to implement each week. At the end of the first week I"ll evaluate and see if 1 week is long enough, or if I need to spend longer, maybe even a month? focusing on the habit I want to form. I'll start with a week, though, because I want to stay focused, and if I give myself too long, I could end up procrastinating and lose a sense of urgency.

For now, naptime for my kids is over, so I'll have to browse through the handbook and choose my first habit tomorrow. Maybe I'll even chronicle my progress here on this blog. It'll be motivation to not let this project slide away uncompleted.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Raindrop's wails chafe my spirits and I turn the monitor down. I make my way to her napping place, the floor of our closet, and see her once more turned on to her back, crying into space. Again, is this the fifth time, sixth? I turn her over and put her pacifier back into her mouth, cover her with warm blankets and quietly shut the door most of the way. Frustration knocks at my heart door again. Why can't she nap today? My list of things to do is long, and barely begun, though daytime is half over. Her brothers' naps won't last long, and my quiet time slips away with each minute of continued crying. I return and change her diaper, while she grins at me and then begins sucking her big toe. The sweetness charms me, and when she's clean and dry, no sign of sleepiness in her sparkling eyes, I begin again. When the boys wake up I have a shopping trip planned. Boys to Great-grammie's house, Raindrop, fresh and happy from a good nap, accompanying me down each isle. That's the plan. So she must sleep, or our outing will be as frustrating as this naptime. I turn her over onto her blanket and lie down with her. My mind fills with thoughts of chores undone. Meals to plan. Shopping list to write. Laundry to continue doing. Firewood to bring in.

Her body fights my arm resting firmly across her back, holding her still. She squirms and pushes, then finally relaxes. My eyes are mostly closed to encourage an atmosphere of rest, and she gazes at them, still, for several minutes. Her round head and soft cheeks are highlighted by a glow of faint light filtered through the slightly open door. I am stilled. Gratitude fills me as I spend a quiet moment with my baby girl. I wish, as I've wished many times, that I had more time to be still and enjoy her youngest days. I watch impatiently for signs of crawling because experience tells me life becomes easier when a baby is able to get places on her own. How do I make myself stop and enjoy her soft plumpness, so quick to fade when she begins to move herself around? Sometimes I'm forced into it. Like today. Finally, sleep closes her eyes, and her hand on my cheek goes limp. I move my head and her fingers cling to a tangle of my hair. I gently remove them and continue my day in humbled gratitude. I need to be focused. I need to be diligent. I need to live life on purpose, intentionally working toward goals. But in spite of all that, life is better when small moments happen, beyond my control, that make me stop and drink of the best of life, right here in my own bedroom closet.