Tuesday, November 18, 2008

That's an option.

Last night I was attempting to shop in the grocery store. One of those trips you hadn't planned on making. I picked the girls up, Matthew was with me, he wanted to get to Open Gym at 6:00pm, and rushing home I remember we're out of toilet paper and tampons. Sorry, but that's a stop we're making. Run in, run out. Sounds simple enough, right?

Then the temper tantrum struck. We've all been there: a desperate to control the situation overreaction to having to do something you don't want to do. (Except mine is 13.) I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of the store reminiscent of when she was two. The exagerations (pained look, pleas of "Please don't hurt me" strategically voiced as we passed fellow customers) continued until we were in the car and once home she was sent to her room for a much needed nap. That's when the threat came in (and they all threaten). "I'm going to go live at my dad's!" My calm response: "That's an option." She was silenced for half a second before she continued, "At least HE lets me do what I want!" I shrugged, "that's one way to solve your problem." Silence again, followed by, "What do you mean? You don't even care if I go to my dad's and NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN?!" (I continued working about the kitchen...) "Even though I love you more than anything in the world, it's time for you to decide for yourself how you're going to live your life. Choosing to live at your dad's is an option." More silence. (I'm sure she was trying to gauge my sanity.) "What about Dotter? I'll never see her again...that's not fair to her." "I'm sure you've thought about that. You're smart; I'm sure you'll come up with a way where you can see your sister if you choose to live at your dad's." It continued on for a few more minutes before I explained that her choice of behavior in the grocery store resulted in the consequence of her going to her room. She went in her room.

I had forgotten all about the "That's an option" statement. Oh, how many times it saved me when they were younger! Threats are made by children in attempt to emotionally steer you off course. Toys that needed to be picked up were met with a cool "I don't care" when I explained they would be removed from the house if they were still there in five minutes.

I've heard things ranging from "I'm going to scratch you!" to "I don't want you to be my mommy anymore!" to "I'm going to run away from home!" (Ironically, each time was when they wanted to do something contradictory to what a house rule was.)

When they were little I'd say something like, "That's an option. You could scratch me, but then you would get a time-out for hurting me, and you would still lose your toys because you haven't picked them up. Or... you could choose to pick up your toys and keep them to play with them later."

I realized the "That's an option" statement is probably more pertinent now than ever. THEY need to do all the thinking to get them out of the situation they're in, and THEY ultimately need to take ownership of the problem. For better or for worse the decisions they make in their lives are ones they will have to accept. Somehow I've got to get them thinking about the consequences of their choices. Somehow I've got to get them to think "If I do this, what logically comes next for me? And can I handle that?"

Personally, I had a much easier time dealing with picking the toys up off the living room floor...