At 4:00am, my little gal, a strong-willed and intuitive four-year-old child, entered my room, snuck up to my side of the bed, and sweetly whispered, “Mommy, can I ask you a question?”
Through the early morning fog, I answered, “Of course my darling wonderful child*.”
(*I did not call her darling and wonderful, but probably just grunted.)
“Will you get me a glass of water?”
Now, let me tell you something. I love my children. I will jump in front of a bus to protect them, I will slap another child in the face if he or she intentionally hurts them, I sacrifice my sanity to make sure they are happy, loved, and taken care of. I will cook them pancakes on a school morning, I will read them books until I’m out of breath, and I will let them play Pokemon Go on my phone until we run out of free Pokeballs.
But if I can help it, I will not do something for them that they can do on their own. Like go to the bathroom and fill up a cup of water to drink. Especially during the darkest of darkness, 4am.
In fact, I don’t think anything could get me out of bed at 4am, except maybe Ryan Gosling eating cereal in my dining room. Even then, I’d really have to think about it.
My little girl has been quite the challenge, so I have a stack of parenting books on my nightstand that have become my bibles. Parenting The Strong Willed Child, Parenting with Love and Logic, and Living with Intensity (that one might be a stretch…). Every book has the same advice:
Be consistent and give them realistic options. Do not give in.
So I told her, there is a cup of water already filled in my bathroom, you may have that. *Or*, you can go get your own cup from the kitchen. Those are your two options.
For the next hour, she screamed at my husband and me. She didn’t WANT to get her own water, she wanted MOMMY TO GET IT FOR HER. After about 20 minutes of her tantruming on the floor, I finally picked her up, and put her back to her own bed, where she screamed and kicked and if she knew cuss words, she would have hurled those at the door.
During this time, my husband and I had the only response to laugh until we were about to cry. Because we were incredibly thirsty. Very quietly, we gulped down a bottle of water he had on his nightstand and felt so guilty about it. Do you remember when Kate Gosselin of “Kate Plus Eight” refused to let her children drink water, and then gulped down a bottle in front of them on live TV? That’s how I felt.
Refreshed and hydrated, I was ready for the next phase of the tantrum, where little miss decides to change her tactics. She realized that I stayed strong and didn’t budge from the two options I gave her. So now, she plays the pathetic card.
Sobbing in a style that will one day win her an Academy Award for actress in a dramatic role, she moaned and whimpered. “Mommy.”
Pause pause. Sniff.
“MOMMY I WANT WATER NOW.”
Through whispers, my husband and I debate if she should be punished. I figured me not giving in was punishment, but he felt she needed something taken away. We’ve tried screen time, dessert and junk food, toys, but she doesn’t care. So when she stomped back in huffing and puffing, he told her that she had to the count of 3 to stop tantruming, or she would lose all of her costumes for five days.
A few sobs, real this time, and then sniffles, and she whimpered one last time. “But I really want mommy to get me water.”
And so the cycle begins again. I gave her the two options and added a third, “or, you can complain and lose your costumes.”
She stormed out of the room, and I thought maybe we were done. Instead, she came back to our room and brought *me* water, in a champagne coupe, then snuggled in and snored until morning. She snuck out of bed early to play Minecraft with her brother, and I took advantage of it and caught up on the two hours of sleep I lost because of her.
My two children exist on opposite ends of the personality spectrum. My older is laid-back, eager to please, and sensitive. My youngest is a dynamite stick with a tiny fuse. It makes parenting a challenge, to say the least, but over the past few months I have learned a lot about myself as a mother and tips that are proven to help with children like my own.
But this process is not easy, or for the weak of heart (me). It is so much easier to give in, I could have just gotten out of bed, made her a glass of water, and finished the ordeal in five minutes. But giving in negates months worth of work and consistency that I have been attempting.
My goal is that we can nip this behavior in the bud so that I have the sweetest and most darling teenager* in the world.