My son, Fang, drives me up the wall. He’s four; it’s his job. He doesn’t want to eat dinner. (“I don’t like that.”) He doesn’t want to take his bath. (“I’m not dirty.”) He doesn’t want to go to bed. (“I’m not tired.”) He doesn’t want to get up in the morning. (“I’m tired.”) He doesn’t want to get dressed. ( “I don’t like that shirt. I want to wear Lightning McQueen again.”)
Like I said, he’s four - it’s his job.
Last night, after the usual rigmarole of going to bed, he called out for someone to restart his music. (Once he’s resigned himself to his fate, he generally stays in bed.) I finished putting the baby in his crib, and went to Fang’s room to restart his music. I restarted the CD player, and told him he did a good job only calling out once for his music, and not waking up his baby brother. He muttered something and I asked him repeat himself. He then told me, “You’re a good cook, and a good Da, and Grandpa’s silly.”
He drives me batty, but things like that make it all worth it.
Tonight they ate about half of the brand new tube of Thomas toothpaste that I just bought this afternoon. New tube was purchased because they sucked the old tube dry earlier this week and their teeth were starting to yellow (that “natural consequences” punishment technique only goes so far).
But, as you say, they have their charms as well. I had a little too much rum to think of any right now, but I know mine made me laugh today and had to have been sweet a time or two.
I’m glad to hear it’s the age. My 4yo is the same. She’s realizing that there is power in this world to be had, and she wants to see how much she can wrest from us. Plus she’s honing the art of being passive aggressive lately:
Her: I’m hungry
Me: OK, what would you like to eat?
Her: I don’t know - you pick for me.
Me: Alright - Cheerios.
(repeat with 12 other foods)
And yes, I’ve tried offering her 3 choices off the bat, and she still does the same routine - none of those, but you pick for me.
But then something like this happens, and it makes it all worth while: She was sitting at the table, and suddenly clenched her fists, tensed her body, and grunted with effort. I looked at her like, “what’s going on with you?” and she said matter-of-factly, “I’m trying to change color, like a chameleon.”
Mom of three grownups here. But ohhhhhh how I remember…
Here is how the conversation needs to go if ya wanna re-train her out of that habit (because it will only get worse as she gets older, because passive-aggressiveness is a habit that one can apply to many life situations, and she needs to start learning that passive-aggressiveness as a solution to life situations overall is not a good one. Otherwise she will grow up to be one of these women who drives boyfriends, and husbands, and co-workers going out for lunch, NUTS. “Where do ya wanna eat?” “Oh, I dunno, you pick…” Twelve choices, and none of them is right, little martyred sigh while co-workers roll their eyes and privately resolve not to invite her anymore…)
**Her: I’m hungry
Mom: OK, what would you like to eat?
Her: I don’t know - you pick for me.
Mom: Well, let me know when you think of something you want to eat, and I’ll get it for you. [goes and does something else in another room, like Internet, or sewing, ignoring any and all subsequent whining, tantrums, or anything other than a clearly expressed choice.]**
See? This leaves the ball squarely in her court. Now, if she wants something to eat, the dynamic has changed, and Mommy isn’t standing there in the kitchen any more at her beck and call, waiting patiently for her to continue playing the Power Game. Now, she will discover to her annoyance, not only is she going to have to decide, but also, she’s going to have to go and get you out of whatever you’re doing, which requires even more effort on her part.
If you stick to your guns, and ignore the whining/tantrums, she’ll have stopped doing this in a day.
It won’t kill her if her meals don’t arrive like clockwork. I have yet to see the American child that was in danger of collapsing from malnutrition if her lunch didn’t arrive on the stroke of noon.
This has the added bonus of impressing upon her the fact that Mommy is not her slave, that Mommy has other things to do, that Mommy, in fact, has a Life. Four is old enough to start learning this.
Maybe this is a dumb question, but why do you ask her what she wants to eat? (I’m assuming this is for a meal, not a snack) I don’t think I was asked my opinion on what I wanted to eat for dinner/other meals eaten home until I was in high school. Unless it was something we could make ourselves, whichever parent cooked picked the menu. Requests were occasionally honored, if made a few days in advance.
So our conversations would go like this:
Us - we’re hungry
Mom or Dad - dinner will be ready in ____ minutes
Us - okay
I bet if you stopped offering her choices she’d either accept what you give her, or start being more upfront about what she wants just to attempt to assert some control over the situation.
I wouldn’t offer her twelve choices. I understand being hungry and not knowing what you’re in the mood for. I would make two or three suggestions, then move onto Duck Duck Goose’s suggestion of “Let me know when you figure it out.”
The chameleon thing is adorable. Dana Carvey had a stand-up bit where his kids had driven him absolutely bananas all day, and finally, when he got them into bed, his son looked at him and said, “Daddy? Does God have feet?”
Thanks for the suggestions! She is VERY picky, and I was as a kid, so I indulge her a bit, which may mean I’ve strayed into overindulgence territory. But this is usually for snacks, or for breakfast, and I also don’t actually offer twelve things anymore. Sometimes I’ll offer a couple things to choose from, sometimes I’ll come up with one idea, and if the answer is “NOOOO!” my response is “OK, you don’t have to eat it.”
Lately we’ve tried a new approach at dinner that’s kind of working. Not only is what’s for dinner the only choice, but I try to make one thing she likes OK, and give her a medium-small portion of it, with one tiny bite of each item she “doesn’t like” (i.e., has never tried and is horrified by the mere thought of). She doesn’t have to eat anything she doesn’t want, but if she wants seconds of the favored food, she has to eat the other stuff first. So far she has tasted and spat out a couple new items, and gone to bed slightly hungry a bunch of times, but trust me, that is amazing progress.
But in the past few months, she has weaned, given up diapers at night, made big leaps in pre-reading and artistic ability, learned to swim by herself, prepared for starting school, and learned we’re having a new baby. I try to cut her some slack when I can.