We have a saying in our house that I've heard other moms use as well. It is:
You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.
Sounds reasonable, right? Not to a five year old who wants what he wants or, darn it, he will throw a fit. We've drilled this saying into Noah dozens and dozens of times, but it always seemed to go in one ear and out the other. Actually, most of the time, it probably never even made it to the ear, with all the fit throwing and such. No sound had any hope of penetrating that amount of wailing. Heaven help us!
Well, heaven did help us. It seems our efforts have not been in vain. It seems that consistency does pay off, eventually. There is hope! Let me tell you what happened.
Last night I fixed chicken salad sandwiches for dinner. I got the table all set and sent the kids into the kitchen to eat their lovingly prepared meal. Noah took one look at what was awaiting him and began hyperventilating, yelling between breaths, "No! No! No!" You'd think by his reaction I'd given him an Earth worm sandwich or something (some of you may know that recently Noah did try a worm- he licked it. Yet, he won't eat my cooking?).
Remembering my goal to be more Christlike, I calmly said, "Noah, you can either stop throwing a fit or you can sit down and eat."
The fit escalates.
"Okay, you can go to your room while we eat," I say, still relatively calmly.
Fit escalates even more.
"Noah, you chose to go to your room when you continued throwing a fit. Now go to your room," still surprisingly calm.
His fit nears Mom's breaking point, and he has yet to go to his room.
"Go to your room!" I add in a fake sweet voice, "Bye!" Noah finally relents, just in time I might add. Mom wouldn't have been able to take much more.
Clara and I sat down to eat while Noah continued his fit in his room, where he stayed until he was calmed down. He was not invited back to the dinner table.
After another tantrum during a game of Hide-and-Seek, which we will not get into, it was time to get ready for bed.
"I don't want to go to bed!"
By this point, I'm trying to tune him out as best as possible. Somehow (thank you Heavenly Father), I've stilled maintained a great deal of patience.
His protests of not wanting to go to bed continue, and I continue ignoring them. Then his stomach reminds him of it's empty state, and he starts bawling, "I need to eat! I'm hungry! I need to eat!"
I remind him of his earlier choice, "You chose not to eat when you threw a fit about what I fixed."
Saying this was not exactly helpful in the hopes of terminating his fit, so I give him another choice (thank you Love and Logic):
"You can either stop throwing a fit or you can go to bed right now, without any stories."
Can you guess what happened? You're right. He didn't stop, so I helped him finish getting his jammies on and escorted him to his bed, kissed him "Goodnight", turned off the light, and shut the door. He was asleep in five minutes.
After such an experience it can be easy to wonder if you're teaching them anything. Fortunately, I felt very proud of myself for maintaining my self-control and disciplining him with love.
This morning Noah woke up very hungry, but I still had my doubts of whether he would be affected in the long term by this experience. He's gone to bed without food before, but it didn't really change anything.
Now lets go to tonight's dinner. I decided to try making a gluten free boxed dinner I bought a few weeks ago for Clara. I knew Noah probably wouldn't eat it, but I was willing to take the chance. He saw me fixing dinner and asked, "What's that?" I told him it was tuna fish. Then I added more ingredients: water, milk, butter, a packaged sauce, and some corn pasta. Noah watched, and I fully expected to hear something like, "I don't want to eat" or "I'm not hungry." But nope. That's not what I heard.
He saw the picture of what I was fixing and asked if that's what the food I'd just mixed together was going to look like. I said it was, and he was very interested and said it looked good.
I thought, Okay. This is a little weird. Good. But weird.
As I continued cooking he continued to be very excited about eating it. The best was when he said, "I'm not going to throw a fit."
I said, "That great! You must be a grown up boy!" He smiled proudly.
He also helped me set the table.
When our gluten free tuna pasta and some cauliflower I'd also fixed was done, we sat down as a family to eat. Now the moment of truth. Would he really eat it? Or would he throw another fit?
He took a minuscule bite, and exclaimed, "This is really good! Mmmm!"
He continued eating, taking pea-size bites and continuing with the positive reinforcement. It was almost like he was giving himself a pep talk with each bite.
He even tried a little piece of cauliflower, and when I said it was my favorite vegetable, he said, "Mine too." And when Clara showed signs of not wanting to eat her food, he said to her, "Clara, 'we get what we get and we don't throw a fit.'" Wow, I thought. Did he really just say that?
You can imagine the happiness I felt as I watched all this unfold. I was so proud of my little guy for acting so grown up and learning an important lesson. He was so proud of himself too and wanted to call Daddy at work and tell him how he "didn't throw a fit" when he "got what he got."
I think I really needed this little glimmer of hope. I've been thinking a lot lately about this scripture:
"...be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." -D&C 64:33
Well, I have been feeling weary! I've tried not to, but sometimes it just can't be avoided. I've felt like despite all my efforts, I'm not making a dent. The Lord knew how I was feeling, so He granted me this experience to show me that I am making more than a dent. Not just counting this story I just shared, Noah was good as gold today. There were moments, of course, but for the most part, he was such a sweet boy today, and I needed that desperately. I needed to know that I am doing good things with him, even though it's sometimes hard to see. I can't give up when things get hard. I have no doubt that his fit-throwing days are not numbered, but if I just keep at it, great things will happen- just like today.