Today I taught myself how to remove a door from its hinges. I hadn’t started out my day with the intention of doing this, but it became one of those days. Beginning with my 3 year old awake at 4.30am it was not how I had thought my weekend would start out.
For several weeks now, my 3 year old son has developed a fascination for repeatedly hitting and whacking his toys against his bedroom door in response to being put there to calm down. He is quite a clever wee thing as he has worked out that the louder he hits the door, the quicker Mum or Dad come running…..for fear that the newly painted (newly bought) door will quickly succumb to holes and damage. As a result of this behaviour, he was warned that if he was going to continue to do this, he would no longer have the benefits of a bedroom door. Now, in my career I have met many children who have required the adults to put in place clear warnings as well as follow through with the resultant consequences. More often than not, the children, when offered a choice as to a positive or negative consequence as a result of their behaviour, the positive choice is the usual outcome. Even doing the ‘count-down’ to follow through with the warning results in children scampering to meet the deadline.
And then I met my son. It is as almost as if he chooses to wait until I reach ‘3’ (the dreaded number) to see what comes next. If offered two choices (one being a positive outcome, and one negative) he will choose the negative, just to see if Mum will actually do what she has said will happen next. And this has meant that I have had to be on top of my game every single time. Every single warning I give, I have to be sure I can follow through. Consistency is the absolute imperative in order to ensure that my son grows to understand the values and expectations we have in our family. Much of the behaviour we get from my son is when he is exhausted and sleep deprived. Unfortunately, as parents, we are usually just as exhausted and sleep deprived at this point too! This makes following through with any warning that much more difficult.
So having threatened the removal of his bedroom door several days earlier, I found myself in the position of having to follow through with this warning today. Tired, exhausted and completely unreasonable my poor wee man was unable to make any good choices, instead choosing to go head to head with every limit placed upon him. So I made a quick assessment of the situation as he raged behind his closed door. I took a look over my daughters bedroom door and calculated the basic tools I required. By the time I had located them in the shed next door, my son had worked his way out of his room and had begun to annoy his sister. The sight of the hammer in my hand was a curious distraction from tormenting his sister and although still in full verbal flight he managed to ask what I was doing.
It was my intention to use speed and efficiency to increase the effect of the warned consequences to the ongoing door assaults. But I was quite the novice at door removal and given the angle needed to be taken in order to hammer the hinge pins out, the speed of my response decreased rapidly. I had my sons attention as I walked past with the hammer. I held his attention as he stood on the other side of the door listening to the banging begin. But as the banging went on for a lengthy time, he wandered off looking for other ways to entertain himself as he grizzled. I continued to work on the three hinges, finally loosening the door.
As I lifted the door off and relocated it to the hallway I passed my unwell daughter encamped on the couch. Her eyes widened but no comment was made, which made me consider that the image of her mother walking past with a bedroom door must not be all that unusual in our household. I simply winked at her, to which she returned the response and carried on. By the time normality had been regained in our lounge area, my son had returned and ventured back into his room. He commented that his door was missing, to which I replied that he had been warned. I offered him the reminder that when he was able to calm down in his bedroom then he would be able to have his door back like a big boy.
The lesson this taught me today was not only that I am capable of removing a door (although not ready to challenge a world record time as yet); the key to my sons learning is my consistency. Following through with my warnings every.single.time. is an exhausting and challenging process, but completely necessary in order for my son to learn that there are boundaries in our household. That rules and expectations are there for a reason. By implementing logical consequences, I am choosing to avoid a punitive, unsupportive approach to my son’s behaviour. Our relationship remains positive because the consequence is fair and reasonable. He may not like the consequence (and this is the point), but he can’t argue it doesn’t make sense. For the most part, this is life as an adult. We do things, good or bad, and the resultant consequence is good or bad. We don’t have anyone (as long as we are inside of the law) growling, berating, hitting or hurting us into realizing our error. But we have to live with the outcome. This is my approach to teaching ‘life’ to my children. This approach breeds a sense of responsibility rather than a bitterness when punishment is imposed. The key to the success of this approach, however, is consistency. And the delivery of consequence with calmness and love. Which sometimes is the hardest of all to achieve!