Lately my son has been going (what I hope) is a phase where he is violent and yesterday I literally reached the end of my rope, but I think I finally got through to him.
I love my son, but lately I he has been testing his boundaries because he has started talking back to me, yelling, throwing things, and worst of all, hitting (including punching, kicking etc.). If he were only doing it to me, I would probably be more understanding, but when I see attack the two babies or the dogs I go ballistic. The girls are only 12 months old and it is my job to protect them and take care of them. I carry around the episode of CSI Las Vegas in my head whether the three-year old accidentally kills his baby brother by smothering him with a pillow. I know that even when he doesn’t mean to hurt them he still can.
Yesterday he meant to hurt them. He walked up to his baby sister and punched her three times in the face before I could break it up. Then, here I was trying to comfort a very upset baby with tears streaming down her face, her sister getting upset because I don’t have her in my lap as well, and him running around the room knowing he did something wrong and seeing I had my hands full.
Discipline is hard when you are outnumbered by your children. In the past we have sent him to the corner for a time out, sent him to his room, and taken away cartoons, but lately nothing seems to work any more. I admit part of the problem is me because I come home from work, usually hungry and tired, to my house which is now a chaotic mess from the kids running around all day (my husband watches them until he goes to work and then my parents cover off the couple of hours until I get home). It’s dark and cold and we can’t go outside and they have energy to burn, I get it. I hated being cooped up too, the nights seem twice as long. It’s really hard for me to enforce things because the babies are still so young and between the two of them they are more than enough to keep me busy.
But yesterday I was really trying. I had a coffee, put on a movie for him, and got on the floor and built his cars tent with him so we could have a slumber party, but still he was being just plain awful.
By 7:00pm I was so frustrated and upset I sent him to the basement for a time out and called daddy. He said it had been a tough day and suggested we start “throwing away” his toys.
To be honest, I didn’t think it would work. He has hundreds of dollars worth of toys he never plays with, instead always taking things that aren’t toys (like pieces of the vacuum cleaner) and starting an argument. (My kid is very smart, and believe me, even though he is only three he knows exactly how to push mommy’s buttons).
I remember when I was a child my mother told me that if I didn’t clean my room she would throw out all my toys and I laughed until one day she did. She put them all in a garbage bag, and I still called her bluff. It wasn’t until garbage day, when I ran outside dragging my grandmother, tears streaming down my face because the garbage bag of toys was right there on the curb heaped with the other garbage bags that I knew she was serious. Nana had to go through a few bags of actual garbage to find my precious Cabbage Patch kids, and from then on, I knew what my mom was capable of.
So I went for it. I explained to Sawyer, yet again, that we treat others the way we would want to be treated which means no hitting (kicking, punching, etc.). I told him that every time he hurt someone, whether it was me, his sisters or the dogs I would take a toy and put it in the garbage. He told me he didn’t care because he had more toys. I said eventually those would be gone too. “I’ll just play with the baby toys” he bragged. I told him he wouldn’t because those toys belonged to his sisters.
It wasn’t long before he started pretending to kick his sister. I warned him again, “remember the rule, if you kick her you will lose a toy”. He looked at me and went right on to kick her (not hard). So I went and got out a big garbage bag from under the sink and he started freaking out. I picked up Annie (or Clarabelle, they look both the same) and put her in the bag. He lost it! He started crying and screaming and shaking. He came over and hugged me and I held him while he cried and told him that I was sorry but he had a choice and he chose to kick and so he has lost one of his toys. He got so upset, he peed his pants.
I took him upstairs to change and put the girls to bed while he was getting his pyjamas. And you know what? After weeks of this escalating behaviour he was suddenly my sweet little boy again. He put on his socks all by himself for the first time and we both relished in the moment. Then as he ran around naked I jokingly told him that when he grew up I would tell his girlfriend all about it (expecting him not to understand). Standing there naked he raised his hand and smacked it across his forehead with a sigh. “No mommy,” he said, “you can’t tell her that. She will laugh at me”. At which point I just broke out into laughter.
Today I am working a 13 hour shift so I won’t see him, but tomorrow I am off so we will see how it goes. I am worried that eventually he will become “immune” to this punishment as well, but I am hoping he won’t because the girl’s safety (and my sanity depends on it).
Oh, and as for the toys, of course we are not really going to throw them away. We are just going to hide them for a while. I suggested to hubs that maybe down the line we could start offering some of them back as a reward for good behaviour, once he gets out of the habit of hitting, but he wasn’t so sure about that, so we will see.
Have you ever had to resort to desperate measures? What do you do when an older sibling attacks a baby? Please feel free to share all your discipline tips and tricks, especially for those of us with more than two children.