Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Crowdsourcing: How do you deal when your child digs in his heels?

"I'm staying!" Max announced, matter-of-factly.

Huh, what?

We had just escorted Ben to his Toddler Time class. Max had the day off for Columbus Day, and he'd been really excited to take Ben to school. Evidently, though, he'd hatched some plan about joining him.

"Max, you can't stay with Ben, this is a class for little kids," I explained.

Logic never works at times like these.

"I'm staying!" Max repeated, more loudly this time.

The teacher looked at us.

"He can stay for a few minutes," she offered.

Tots were just beginning to trickle in. The class has only recently gotten to a point where none of the kids were crying for their parents, and I didn't want Max to disrupt the calm. Because when one kid starts to wail, they all start to wail.

"No, that's OK, we're going," I said, and grabbed Max's arm.

He's almost as big as I am (that is not hard, as I am just shy of 5'2"), and moving him around isn't so easily.

"Max, let's go," I said. "You can't stay. This is Ben's class."

"NO!" he said, this time really loudly. "I'm staying!"

A couple of the kids were staring. Ben was playing with the play kitchen.

"We're going—now," I said.

"I'M STAYING!" he yelled.

And then I literally dragged him out of the class.

"Bye, Mommy!" said Ben.

Max too old for me to be forcibly removing him from a room, but I did not want to risk a meltdown in Toddler Time. We discussed it in the car ride home.

"Max, you know your behavior wasn't OK before," I said. "You couldn't stay in the class. It's just for little kids, not big brothers and sisters."

"ARGH!" he said.

I asked for an apology for the yelling.

"Sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry," said Max, drawing out the word.

Obnoxious teen? Check!

He looked at me with a wicked grin and cracked up.

I couldn't help it: I had to laugh, too. I knew he knew he was acting out.

"Max, are you really sorry?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. And then: "Sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry." And he cracked up again.

I still have (obviously) not found a solution for defusing situations like this. When Max gets something in his head, it is difficult to redirect him. It goes beyond stubbornness—it's part of how his brain works. He hatches plans, then assumes that things will go the way he's conjured them up. Threatening to take something away from him or giving him other consequences never does the trick.

At home, distraction tends to work. Yesterday afternoon, when he refused to take his eyes off his iPad for the start of music therapy, I asked if he wanted to create a birthday song for Ben, and he perked up. But when we're out, it's harder to deal when he digs his heels in.

Open to suggestion here, people!


  1. One thing I'd start with is *not* laughing at Max's teen behaviour/sass. Would you laugh if it was Sabrina?

    Or, frankly, how would you react if it was Ben?

    I don't know if it would make a difference, but it could help to make Max give a proper, sincere apology. Even if he doesn't *feel* sincere about it (which wouldn't be unusual for a kid/teen), it still teaches him the polite, expected social acknowledgement to inappropriate behaviour, and this could help him in many situations in life.

    These are just suggestions... Feel free to ignore!

  2. The part that you did great was not giving in. You didn't bribe(e.g. lets go get a doughnut!). With my almost-15-year-old, if I give on once he will expect it all the time. This is really, really hard for me to do. Luke is now over 5' 5" and he likes to push is 5' 2" sister's buttons (I call it being twerpy towards her). When I ask he will readily admit doing.

    Part of the issue is not being able to predict all possible things. You do a great job of preparing Max. But who would have thought this one?!

    Is it time to start having consequences along the lines of I will give you to the count of 3, if you choose not to leave at that point then you will loose something. This is something you can talk with Max about in a generic way using preschool as an example.

    One final thought - I think some of this is hard with Max/Luke because of all of those times when you (me) would have given anything for our kids to express a desire/want in an articulate manner.

  3. We haven't encountered this too much yet, but I definitely enjoyed the story :)


  4. I try and calmly and quietly talk him out of it, then I say I understand what you want but we need to come out here to talk about it, I can usually get him to understand if I can go to an environment which he is not distracted in. Hugs to you as it is not easy

  5. What you did was perfect. The best message you can send is " This behavior will not get you anything". Not a big reaction. Not alot of attention. Not a discussion. Not a distraction. Nothing other then what l absolutely need to get you to stop. There is no need for another consequence.

    The only thing I'd say is "I didn't like you not leaving when I told you to go". Do NOT get caught up in a diversion issue like the yelling. Ignore it.

  6. Another thing I will do with Luke is to remind him of the rules (he clearly understands that rules are to be followed). In this case the rule would be something along the lines of only the students and teachers get to stay in the class, everyone else (moms, dads, brothers, ...) are visitors and they have to leave after taking the student. Sometimes it appears that Luke needs to know why.


Thanks for sharing!

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