'Positive discipline' meets its match: my 5-year-old monster

Staff WriterMay 9, 2008 

(From a posting on Trianglemom2mom.com by Bonnie Rochman, an N&O staff writer. Bonnie's blog is posted every Monday. See more of her postings or join a conversation with her on the Web site. She's one of several regular bloggers who write about being a mom in the Triangle.)

In our house, the dinosaurs are not extinct.

I know this from personal experience. We have a hates-to-take-her-medicine-o-saurus (the baby), a whine-o-saurus (big sis) and a don't-like-to-listen-o-saurus (big bro).

Judging by the intensity with which he ignores instructions, I'd have to say my son's got the chops to go head to head with any Tyrannosaurus rex.

He just doesn't like to listen. Those are his words.

He's 5. It's normal. But it's infuriating.

We were warned about the terrible twos, the tantrums, the defiance. He sailed right through those 365 days.

But this 5-year-old year is doing us in. Where is the alliteration to describe the apathy he feels toward authority? Fearsome Fives? Feisty? Fiery?

None of that comes close to describing his behavior.

Let me get the disclaimer out of the way: Aviv is an amazing, brilliant, beautiful boy, a soccer star with a sensitive streak (he cried real tears the other night when he saw our wedding video for the first time).

It's got to be hard to get attention, with his two younger sisters around all the time. But I think it goes beyond that. For some reason I can't figure out, he seems to thrive on not doing what I ask of him.

"Put your shoes on, put your shoes on, put your shoes on, put your shoes on." It's like background noise.

"PUT YOUR SHOES ON!"

Now he does it.

I come from a family of yellers. It's in my DNA, handed down generously on both sides. I pledged I'd be different. But honestly, sometimes yelling seems like the only thing that works.

Today, when he lounged in his booster instead of buckling up, I tried counting. One, two, three ...

Three and a half!, piped up my daughter, trying to warn her brother that Mom was on the brink of reaching the next integer, and then things would get really bad.

Four!

"Now you can't get your playing cards back today," I announced. (My husband took them away the day before, a consequence of -- what else? -- not listening.)

He just looked at me, blank-faced.

When I explained that I'd withhold them the next day, too, if I didn't hear a metallic click immediately, he relented.

Am I expecting too much?

My husband and I took a parenting class at Project Enlightenment, the Wake County school system's epicenter for parent-child woes. It was called "Positive Discipline."

It was a great course, giving us some much-needed ammunition in how to interact with our obstreperous first-born.

The instructors and the participants spent more than a few minutes talking about how to get recalcitrant kids dressed in the morning and how to do it with at least a few hours to spare before it's time to get undressed for bed.

One tip: If your child doesn't want to put on his clothes, don't force the issue. Simply throw the clothes in a bag, throw the bag in the car and inform said unruly child that he'll have to get dressed at school. That threat will light a fire beneath even the slowest of the slow.

Oh, the humiliation of wearing pajamas into school!

P.S. My son wore his pajama pants to preschool.

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