As a parent, particularly a parent that reads parenting things on the internet, you get a ton of advice and suggestions on how to manage your kids. Every parenting site or blog eventually posts some sort of list of suggestions for dealing with your unruly, difficult child when dealing with fill-in-the-blank parenting challenge. I know that the advice is all supposed to be helpful and much of it is time-tested, but every child is different so there is never a one-size-fits-all solution for every problem. Jacob is a prime example of that. Here are just a few of the suggestions that Jacob has beaten into submission:
1) Give your kid two choices - The advice says that you need to give your kid choices so they feel a sense of control and contribution within a limited framework. If you leave things open-ended, they might be overwhelmed, and if you demand a single option they will want to defy you. So give them two choices and let them pick one. Yeah, Jacob is inevitably unhappy with both choices, asks for another, or tries to create his own. I read somewhere that the constant stream of choices is creating a generation of kids that don't know what it's like to not get your way. At least Jacob might avoid that pitfall!
2) Keep offering foods - They say to keep offering foods as it can take a dozen times trying something to decide you like it. Well...I have served many a dinner countless times, and still end up with a battle each time. And trust me, this isn't about fancy foods that there's a chance he wouldn't like. It's over pretty standard fare that he's eaten before or incorporates elements we know he likes.
3) Give warnings prior to changing activities - They always say that transitions are hard for kids, so give them a warning a couple minutes before changing an activity (i.e., getting ready for bed, having dinner, etc.). I could give Jacob any number of warnings, any number of minutes ahead of time, and he still gets angry when he's involved in a project and it's time to change. This makes bedtime particularly hard.
4) Sleep when the baby sleeps - This is a bit of a throwback, but with Jacob in particular, no matter how hard I tried to sleep when he did, inevitably I'd try napping during his nap that would last about 20 minutes. Only when I decided to spend a nap getting things done around the house did he have a marathon nap. Handy, yes...but sleep was probably far more important at that point!
5) Make a routine - They always say how helpful routines are for kids because it makes them feel secure when they know what's coming. It helps with bedtime, morning, school, etc. Well...let's just say we've done the same routines for YEARS, and yet every morning is met with resistance, every bedtime is absolute drudgery. He may know what's coming, but that doesn't stop him from complaining about it and delaying it every step of the way.
6) Anything potty training related, including "Make sure they feel wetness" - Potty training has been a struggle for us for far too long. As I've mentioned, Jacob is still not night trained, but at this point the doctor is convinced that it's simply a matter of his brain and his bladder catching up to each other. I've mostly made peace with that, though there are times I swear it's out of pure laziness...but I can't prove it so there's no need to belabor it at this point. Regardless...we bought our first potty when he was about 18 months old, just in case. We had sporadic success starting when he was about two, but I don't think I'd consider him fully trained until he was close to 3-1/2. Part of that might not have been within his control, but I know there were many times he just couldn't be bothered to go. Heck, we still have close calls! But we tried a little of everything--rewards, potty charts, wearing undies under plastic pants to make him feel wet--and yet it still took forever to get it all together.
7) Whisper to get their attention - They say that when all of the yelling becomes too much, whisper and it will make your child pay attention. Ha. He'll just continue yelling right over me.
8) Lay out clothes the night before - Per #1 above, choices do not work for this child. Picking out clothes every day is a chore. Some people would say that we should pick out clothes the night before so we can avoid issues in the morning. Well, sure...I guess it doesn't matter when we argue (which we will), but the bigger problem with doing it at night is that we could come to a decision the night before, only to have him wig out the next morning because he changed his mind. No thanks. This happens enough when we travel for a weekend and he decides that what we packed isn't good enough, so I don't need it during the week as well.
9) Involve the big sibling in caring for the baby - Jacob had one brief moment where he seemed interested in Carter...the moment he walked into the hospital room and saw me holding him. And then reality set in and he has kept his distance ever since. He has been getting better, as we at least have moments now where he acknowledges his brother's existence, but for the most part he still keeps his distance. But no matter how much I've tried to get him to grab a diaper or come say hi, he still hasn't gained any interest in anything having to do with Carter. He has mentioned couple times that he wants to help feed him, so we really do need to capitalize on that one of these days when the stars align and the timing works out, but no matter what we've tried so far, nothing has had a lasting impression.
10) Use a stern voice instead of yelling - A couple years ago when Jacob was in the throes of the terrible threes, I had asked the doctor about the possibility that some sort of food or drink (specifically cow's milk, but possibly food dyes or something else) might be contributing to his behavior issues. The doctor, who was extra old-school, poo-pooed the idea completely and basically said all Jacob needed was some good, old-fashioned discipline. "Use a firm voice," he said. Ha. We've used every manner of firm voice, but that doesn't work. Neither does yelling, whispering (see above), spanking, taking away privileges, timeouts, reverse psychology, logic, positive reinforcement, or anything else we've tried. At this point I'm hoping aging will do the trick.
So, yeah, we haven't exactly been able to parent Jacob by the book, but there have been other things that have worked like a charm. Maybe I'll post about those one of these days. If I can think of enough for a reasonable post. The successes tend to be a little harder to recall. But Jacob definitely keeps us on our toes. Carter is, so far, the perfect baby, and I'm sad to think that someday we may have these issues with him as well. He's got a front-row seat for his brother's antics, but I'm hoping he learns that he'd rather not be yelled it, rather than simply deciding that he must follow in his brother's footsteps, despite the consequences. Just don't watch too closely, Carter! As I told Jacob last week, use your powers for good!