Like all thing’s in my 17-month-old toddler’s development, the terrible twos have come early. I would be lying if I said that things have been sweet and wonderful between “Dada” and “Max” the past week…it is clear that he is testing me (and Mama). Let’s start by clarifying the Catch 22 my wife Kate and I are stuck in: I want desperately to spend as much loving time with my son as possible but he thinks of me as the third wheel in his relationship with his mother. Kate is getting exhausted having Max crawl all over her and beg for attention all day long so she turns to me for help. I try to step in and Max will literally reject me…his current favorites other than crying are slapping me in the face, scratching me, pinching my neck fat, and pulling my hair…all the while pathetically whimpering and crying the words “Mama?” I then feel useless as though I have failed as a dad so I put Max down who runs to Kate. Kate then feels that I am not participating in the family circle and thus I have been ostracized from both my wife and my son. I am the third wheel.
If I hug my wife…my son runs to us to separate us and hog Mommy to himself while shooting me a grin that can only be read as “fuck you she’s mine.” If we cuddle on the couch, guess who’s climbing Mount Mommy to plant a proverbial flag in the peak by kicking me in the ear? Little shit. I…am fed up. I have read plenty of forums online (I don’t just write). I have asked for advice from fellow parents. I have heard it all and the general advise is this, “it will pass.” I know. I know someday very soon all he will want to do is ride bikes with Dad and help fix the garage door…but right now…I’m dogshit. I’m lower than the cat and the plants on the household pecking order. I’m a helping hand…and I help till I can’t stand being slapped, scratched, and pinched to death.
Max has a new sound he makes which is a blood-curdling scream. It chills you to your bone. It is his response to almost everything and is the recognizable horn of the season known as The Terrible Twos. He is vying for attention and testing to see what responses he can get from us. Where we have failed is in the response we have given. We have given mixed messages. Kate and I both respond differently (Kate has MUCH more patience that I do) and our own responses have varied depending on the situation. Like we did when he wasn’t sleeping…we sat down and made a plan. Right or wrong…we made a plan. At least we are on the same page.
I will not tolerate hitting at all and we had a plan that we got lazy about. When he hits we are going to put him down, break all contact with him, and scold him with a strong “NO!” To this he cries which we allow him to do and then we use words to calm him down…he has a plethora of words in his vocabulary so talking works very well with him. Once he is calm we explain that hitting isn’t nice, it hurts, its wrong, and we should never hit. He usually will say “sorry” and we end the discussion with a hug and an “I love you” while nicely reinforcing the conversation we had.
The no hitting rule goes for us too in order for this to work…which means no spanking…which is hard for me. I was spanked as a child and I came out just fine, but I was spanked when I had a full vocabulary and could understand why I was being spanked. A 17-month-old that can’t understand being spanked…he just associates it with knowing that hitting is okay. I mustn’t spank Max…though I’d love to…oh I want to…but I must refrain.
As well, Max has been play hitting during play-time which needs to stop. Play hitting is still hitting and what we do during play time spills out into life…besides…isn’t it playtime all the time for a 17-month-old? Max doesn’t know the difference. He doesn’t need to be scolded as harshly but it still needs to be made clear that effective immediately there is ABSOLUTELY NO HITTING whatsoever in our house, playful or not.
This is a child testing his boundaries. What response will this get? Does this work? I feel frustrated! Okay, that’s cool but that sound makes me want to kick you across the room like a football (not that I ever would) but that is the carnal response in my spine. So the plan is to place Max in “timeout.” For us we have decided that timeout means:
- Immediately removing him from the situation
- Placing him in a chair or quiet place removed
- Mimicking his screaming tone to say “I hear you”
- Telling him he is in timeout for screaming
- Having him place his hands on his belly to feel his breathing
- Staying with him while he throws his tantrum
- Waiting for the tantrum to ebb
- Once the tantrum is over asking him to use his words to tell us what he wanted
- Ending the punishment with understanding
- Offering affection and asking if he would like to rejoin
That’s the 2 plans…and they are just that…plans. Who knows, next week I might be wearing leopard-print sweatpants and spanking him in a Walmart saying “I teld ye I wasn’t gonna git ye no stupid spideyman toy!!!” Ahhhh parenthood. As I said in my previous post (click HERE to read)…there is the fantasy of parenthood and there is the reality. This is the reality. Little shit. I love him…but he would make a damn fine fotball…but I love him…but…