You’re seriously crying this much over a princess cup? Get in the car! Why do you care about the design on your water cup? It’s just a cup. It doesn’t matter. They both hold water. We are already late. Get in the car! Stop crying!
Those were my thoughts the other morning. We somehow managed to mostly avoid the “Terrible Twos” but one month into being three and I feel like I am losing my mind.
That morning we were already late. I had forgotten to send Keener to camp with a water bottle the day before — I wasn’t about to forget two days in a row. I was racing around, trying to mobilize Keener and myself, and grabbed a blue cup from the drawer.
The “kid dishes” are intentionally kept in a drawer that the kids can access. Whenever possible, I want the kids to be independent. If they can select their own plate, bowl, or spoon, why do I need to do that for them? Of course there are times when a certain dish makes more sense and I will select it, however, my overall philosophy is “don’t do anything for them that they can do themselves.”
That morning, I did not let Keener choose his cup because we were running late and I didn’t think he would care. I was wrong. He lost it. I knew the path of least resistance was to give him what he wanted. But I also knew that meant I was reinforcing his melt down.
In hindsight, I didn’t care which cup he took to camp. I was more focused on getting us in the car since we were already late. The practical reason I didn’t change my mind was because the blue cup was already filled with water. Could I have emptied it and given him the princess cup? Yes. But I didn’t want him to think crying would get him what he wanted. I want to teach him flexibility, but was this the best moment in which to teach him? When we are running late for camp/work and he was not emotionally stable? Probably not. While I may not have taught him flexibility in that moment, at least I was teaching him crying doesn’t get you what you want.
I understand you are frustrated. You wanted the princess cup and mama said no. Let’s get in the car and talk about it. We can make a plan. Every part of me was thinking Just give him the darn princess cup! Drop off at camp this week has been touch and go as is, now he is arriving in an already vulnerable state. But I just couldn’t. Instead, I followed through on my answer; you can’t have the princess cup. Keener was a disaster. He was beyond distraught that he wasn’t getting the cup he wanted. I was scheming in my head how I was going to help him get to a calm state in the 10 minutes we had before arriving at camp.
That is frustrating to not get what you want. I totally get it. Let’s make a plan for when you will use the princess cup. You know, now that I think about it, the Peppa Pig cup with milk should probably be washed today. We have used that cup for a few days now and it’s time to wash it out.
Through sniffles, he started to be able to speak. “Why do we need to wash the Peppa cup?” If you haven’t read last week’s post about “why,” check it out. We need to wash our cups because they get gross. We might use the same cup for milk for a day or two but then we want to wash it to make sure there are no germs on it. Washing it keeps you healthy and germ free. You don’t want to be sick in bed like Ralphie. (He had just watched the Magic School Bus episode about germs and being sick so this resonated with him).
Helping Recover From A Melt Down
After a melt down has started, I feel like my job is to help Keener feel calm again. I do this by vacillating between different approaches:
- Validating how he is feeling — I understand not getting what you want makes you feel upset
- Making a plan — Let’s make a plan for how we can make you feel better
- Distracting him with something somewhat related but with the intention of breaking the cycle and diverting his attention to something else — The Peppa cup needs to be washed! That is the perfect opportunity to use the princess cup because mommy needs to wash Peppa. When mama is doing dishes later, what do you and Gracie want to play with? Play-doh? Trucks? What do you think? Or would you like to wash the Peppa cup? That would be really helpful and I know what a great helper you are.
In a way, it feels strange to be the cause of and the comfort to his melt downs. It feels like the melt down could have been avoided altogether if I had just given him the darn princess cup to begin with.
I’ve been struggling with this a lot recently and I don’t know the right answer. There are so many variables at play — Are we pressed for time? Are either of us hungry and/or tired? Is this something that is non negotiable?
What feels right for now is to do a little research. I want to see if Keener really is going to do “one more thing” and then follow my direction or if that “one more thing” turns into five more things and he is totally playing me. I want to try saying it once and then standing there patiently. It feels like an hour before he complies, but maybe it’s really only 30 seconds. I’m going to change it up, for my sake, and his, and see if we can develop a stronger meeting of the minds. We never had the “Terrible Twos” but this first month of three has made up for it. We need a change. I’ll report back on what I discover.