Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 26: Nobody Likes Consequences

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

 Natural or not, consequences suck. Because of my desire to save my children from anything that sucks, I think I may have been unintentionally shielding Jackson from natural consequences, and in doing so depriving him of important learning opportunities. Since I started this project, this has been one of the major shifts. Today we got some practice.

We went to "school" (parent-child classes through the school district's ECFE program) today, and as usual Jackson was very excited to see friends, teachers and toys. We got out of the house without a hitch and were only reasonably late, a great feat for us considering class starts at 9am. 

When playtime turned into circle time with songs, Jackson struggled with the transition and leaving toys behind. He struggled with waiting to use a bucket of tools his teacher was saving for a special song. He struggled with leaving the tools to wash up for snack time. Through these transitions, I tried to give him as much freedom as was appropriate within the structure of the classroom, trying to model and enforce respect for the teachers and other families. And we made it.

The final transition before heading home is moving from the classroom to the gross motor room full of tricycles, climbers, slides and swings. In the winter, it's one of very few places he can really expend some energy. Needless to say, I wanted to go to the motor room. And he wanted to go to the motor room, but the transition came too quickly for him. He wasn't ready to give up his "front end loader" complete with policeman driver and farmer in the bucket "because that's his favorite place to sleep." 

I explained that in order to go to the motor room, we had to help everyone clean up, then go potty. This is not new as we've had the same routine for almost a year at school. His response was, "I just want to stay here and play with my bulldozer." So I explained further, "By not putting the truck away you're showing me that you're choosing not to go to the motor room today, and we will go home instead." Which was met with what I hear all too often: negotiation. Slowly moving away he declared, "I do want to go to the motor room. I'm just going to finish playing with my bulldozer, then go to the motor room." I clarified at least three more times, emphasizing that by not following the classroom requirement of cleaning before we climb, he was showing me his choice to skip the motor room and go home. 

Finally I had to close negotiations. When I got down and put my hands on his waist to talk to him, he started to resist me and complain. I told him it wasn't my job to hold his body up and gently let him fall to the floor. This was the moment of truth. We were either going to have a massive meltdown or he would recover. Hopefully he didn't see the fear in my eyes. 

In the brief seconds he was on the floor, I could actually see him processing his options. He chose self-regulation. He stood up and I helped him put the truck away. Of course in his world truck on shelf meant boy in motor room. So I took his hand, talked through the choice he had made, and nonchalantly added, "Okay. Let's go home." Then I braced myself while I bundled him up and got Max in his car seat, just waiting for the backlash. It never came.

He reiterated that he wanted to go to the motor room and I asked why he couldn't. He talked about his choice and added, "I can try again next time." He got it! It clicked that there was a window of opportunity that he had chosen to pass up. And I got the chance to tell him he was experiencing a consequence - something that happens because of a choice we make.

It was tempting to let him off the hook, especially since he's been having such a tough time through the candida detox process (as evidenced by the previous transition difficulties of the day). But I would have let a significant teaching moment pass us by if I had. And this one lesson is going to bring us so much peace in the near future, that risking a few moments of disappointment and sadness was well worth it.


  1. Wow, I am amazed by both of you.

    We struggle with leaving to go and coming home, but the underlying issue at hand is different. It's neat to see how the issues are often the same for 2-year-olds, but the solutions are different, and sometimes even the underlying lesson that needs to be learned.

  2. I continue to read your blog and I truely admire your successes with Jackson over this difficult period. The way you handled letting him have a consequence was simply brilliant and he is such a strong, bright boy for learning so well.

    Reading about your struggles and your commitment to the process is really inspiring. Thank you for sharing it with us. :)