Anybody else have a slow learner in their family? Clinically called a strong-willed child, the words “stubborn,” “aggravating,” and “thoroughly unreasonable” also come to mind. Hokey, pokey! If my four-year-old (I’ll refer to him by his nickname, Little Buck) been born first, he would have been an only child. As it is, we stopped with him.
He’s sweet as can be when life flows along according to his wishes, but the moment it takes an unplanned turn, look out! Kicking, screaming, crying, pouting, banging…he practically BEGS for a beating. But if I applied “The Captain” (our affectionate name for a particular wooden spoon) at every opportunity he handed me, I’d go to jail and he would be dead. He just doesn’t learn the first time around. Or the second. Or the third…
For example, when Buck outgrew toddler food, I began insisting he eat the meals I made for the rest of the family, but Buck has strong opinions of his own. When he balked, I didn’t fight him. Instead, I wrapped up his meal and put it in the fridge. When he got hungry, I’d take it out and set it in front of him. It worked beautifully with my two older, compliant children. Today, they’ll try anything I cook. Not Little Buck. After three days of absolutely refusing to eat, he was lying on his bed, puking, fevered and dehydrated. He just wouldn’t learn! I finally made the kid a peanut butter sandwich and came up with a new stategy. Now if he chooses not to eat, he gets nothing till the next meal, and no snacks for two days. He’s probably healthier for it, because it’s not uncommon for the days to compound till he’s two weeks straight without junk food.
Bedtime is another everlasting struggle. If he goes to bed willingly, he gets a radio turned on and the door open. Enough incentinve? Apparently not, as he screams himself to sleep several times a week closed in a music-free room. You’d think that after being put to bed in the same fashion approximately 1,500 times, Buck would learn he can’t win this one. But, no, every evening is a new challenge.
Then there’s that never-fun lesson of responsibility. One of our house rules is, “if you made the mess, you clean it up,” but after four years, Little Buck still hasn’t learned that rule also applies to him. Bikes, toys, videos, special activities are routinely withheld until Buck has finished his job, but even still there have been a few times he’s held out till the very end of the day, when the rule changes to “if mom has to pick it up, it’s going to get thrown away.” Not once, not twice, but several times Buck has lost treasures forever because of his own stubbornness!
And so life goes on with my strong-willed child. I’m a little grayer, and I have more wrinkles than when my other children were breezing through these same lessons, but I’m comforted by the conviction that my persistence is saving my son from an eventual prison sentence.