Friday, September 3, 2010

Behavior detox

In the week after returning from and extended visit with family, we have been in a bit of detox program with River. He was exposed to bad behavior by relatives whose parents set different limits. They are allowed to throw, to hit, to run away and to generally cause quite a ruckus without consequence.

When we visited them for a day or two, several months ago, River looked at me with wide eyes when he saw them throw their toys across the living room. “No, we don’t throw,” I told him. But how is he supposed to understand that different households have different standards? When one of the kids stuck his face into his bowl of food at the restaurant, eating like a dog, River tried to emulate that. “No, we don’t do that,” I told him again.

Mark was up against a losing battle trying to prevent this influence over a period of a week. So it was no surprise that during our first few days back home, there was suddenly a lot of screeching and more testing of limits than usual.

“Screaming and crying will not get you what you want.” Mark and I set a united front on this one, and the yelling has now thankfully gone away.

Admittedly, his ball throwing skills have improved, and that is useful. So we’re allowing him to throw lightweight balls. But nothing else. The other day he whipped something through the air, not letting it go, but pretty close to throwing. I told him we don’t do that. He did it again. I gave him a warning. He did it again. It seemed like a minor offense, not really worthy of a timeout. But I had given him a warning and had to follow through. When he did it the third time, there was a look in his eyes as if to say – show me what the limits are.

He was so calm. He didn’t say a word as I carried him upstairs. He sat quietly in his crib for two minutes. When I took him out and explained that we don’t do that, he was fine with it and we went about our activities.

We are still having a bit of residual effects – things like saying “You’re stinky” or “you’re dirty,” to people, but I think we are pretty much reverting to normal. I was talking to a friend about it and she said, “Yes, that is why you want to control who they hang out with at this age. By the time they are teenagers you lose control, but at this stage, you don’t have to let them be influenced in that way.”

It’s tough though when you like the parents, but the kids are poor influences. It really makes me hope that if he does get a spot in preschool this fall, that the kids are well behaved. Countering negative influences is hard work.

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