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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Defiance – how to handle it, how to recognize it?

It becomes a habit every day, day after day.

Every day at about 7:50 I announce departure time. Time for school. It’s the last transition of many, in our finely honed morning routine.

Currently we have a new hic-cup. My announcement prompts him, a reminder. Now he knows that it’s time to leave it also means that he remembers that he wants to take a Garfield book to school to share with his new pal. Instead of prompting him to move towards the car, I inadvertently give him a tip off to go and seek out the book. Wrong direction. Wrong prompt. Insufficient time to accommodate this new step.

I bound after him, up the stairs, three at a time because I’m cross and I am utterly sick of the deviation from the routine. Late for school is a really bad way to start the day. It wouldn’t be so bad if he could just nip upstairs and grab a book, but nipping isn’t in his nature. His nature dictates that considerable quantities of time must be expended upon choice, far too long for the tightly micro managed schedule. If the morning routine is derailed, then the last transition can unravel the previous hour’s work.

I yell at his swiftly departing shoes as they disappear. Yelling is nearly always a mistake. A louder voice is no more likely to be heard than a quieter voice. “Stop now and come down here!” A shrieky voice is quite properly tuned out.

This habit has developed as a direct result of my own behaviour. Unwilling to leave the other two unsupervised downstairs, I have permitted him to saunter off at the last minute to get a book. Day after day, day after day. If I leave the other two unsupervised downstairs those last few crucial minutes of the routine deviate down a cul-de-sac. The little one removes shoes, the coat gets lost, a bathroom call means that clothing is superfluous but worst of all by far, is that he’ll start to do something new, which means that there will be an additional ‘stop,’ and an additional ‘transition,’ which means an additional meltdown.

If time allows I can prompt him through re-dress, re-shoe, wash hands, flush the loo, hunt the coat. If not, I can do them all for him in about 4 minutes flat. The one thing I can not do is prevent the inevitable meltdown from ‘stopping’ the new activity. I do not want to deal with additional meltdowns just before school. The minutes before school must be calm, organized and structured so as to give them all the very best chance of experiencing a successful day.

Today, the hic-cup must be eliminated. I find him in his room sprawled on the floor surrounded by a slew of Garfield cartoon books. I close my mind to the downstairs scene where the clock is ticking backwards. Downstairs the morning routine is in reverse. I look at my son. He is approximately twelve and a half minutes away from making a positive choice. I can feel steam bursting from my ear-drums. My voice is too hard. My face wears a scowl. I grab the nearest book and pull him to his feet. Outside the engine revves as his father waits for the delivery of three children on the driveway, the sound pumps my blood pressure. I march him and the book back down stairs as I berate him with a detailed example of defiance. Too harsh. Too fast. Far too many words. Irritation makes me irrational, too quick to categorize.

Back in the kitchen he is small, shiny eyed and round shouldered but just about holds it together despite the over-kill. His little brother blinks out of the toilet, stitchless, hands full of Pokemon Trading cards, alarmed by the static electricity that ignites the room.

Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I can prompt him, twelve and a half minutes prior to departure, to go and choose a book. It's not defiance but determination

Fortunately for me, he's a very forgiving kind of a child.

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