Monday, April 2, 2012

The Defiant Child

My son is, I admit it, not the most obedient child. Up until now, I’ve chalked it up mainly to the fact that he is a complete spaz with the attention span of a gnat. Generally, the reason he disobeys is that in the nanosecond since you told him not to do something, he’s completely forgotten that you told him not to do it because his attention is already on some other shiny object. But today I got my first taste of absolute, clear, deliberate defiance.

We were at his gymnastics class, going through a circuit of various apparatuses. He finished one skill and instead of going on to the next, wandered over to the tumble track (kind of like a long, narrow trampoline). He got close to the track and I told him very sternly, “Do not go on the tumble track!” He looked me right in the eye, thought about it for a second, then very deliberately and determinedly stretched out one toe and stepped onto the track.
Nemo touches the "butt"

I scooped him up and frog-marched him right up the steps to the changing room to put his sneakers back on. As soon as he realized what was up, he began sobbing and apologizing and begging not to go home. But (and my husband will be very proud of me for this) I stuck to my guns and told him no. I reminded him that he needs to obey me and when he disobeys he loses out on things like playing with the toys at gymnastics and looking at the construction trucks in the parking lot (his treat after class when he behaves himself). He looked a bit ashamed of himself as we marched out, and despite a few more tears when I refused once again to let him stop and look at the trucks, he climbed into the car relatively obediently.

Not being a particularly strong-willed person myself, it is not easy for me to be the parent of a strong-willed child. However, it is also extremely humiliating to lose a battle of wills to a 2-year-old. I have no doubt that my taking my son out of class today was strongly influenced by the teacher’s comment as he was running rampant at the beginning of class: “Yup, today is Mommy Day. I can tell the difference.” My son takes two classes a week; husband takes him to one and I take him to the other. Apparently, his father manages him much better than I do. That’s just plain embarrassing. Not to mention frustrating. It’s not like I’m a pushover. I’m not one of those parents who say “no” a hundred times and then never follow through. He loses his chance to look at the trucks on a regular basis. We’ve left class for a few minutes and had either a little chat or a spanking on more than one occasion. But like a dog, he can smell weakness and he takes advantage of it.

So today marks the beginning of both his awareness that he can choose to be openly defiant and my choice to draw a very hard line at that defiance.

God help us all (but mostly me).

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