A few months ago, I wrote a post admitting to my use of bribes as a means of effectively parenting my strong-willed toddler. We’ve since evolved from bribes to threats. Maybe I need to vent, maybe I am feeling a little guilty, maybe I need some advice….whatever it is, I felt the need to write about my latest parenting challenge. Here it goes-
This past Sunday evening, everything was going on as normal in our household. We ate dinner together as a family, played with all of Landon’s new birthday gifts and were having a great night. Then it was time for bath. I drew the water, added the bubbles, and in went my little man. We sang our usual songs and played with his new foam letters identifying each one and writing words on the bathtub wall.
Then, it happened. He stood up, squatted down, drew his arms back and propelled them forward creating one giant splash – again and again and again! My floor was soaked, I was soaked, the walls were soaked, the toilet was soaked. Everything was soaked! I yelled “STOP, stop stop!” The more I yelled, the more he laughed, the more he splashed. He wouldn’t stop until we physically yanked him out of the tub. It was like he was giving me a big toddler sized “screw you mom!”
What a horrible end to a perfect day. I lost my cool and I hate when I do, but I also hate when my son completely ignores me when I say stop. The next night, before bath, I sat him down to talk about what happened. Very calmly, I explained, “when you are in the bathtub little splashes are ok, not big splashes.” I asked him to please listen to me when I told him to stop doing something and told him that bathtime is meant for relaxation at the end of the day. He nodded and agreed with everything I said, and promised there would be no splashing. I apologized for yelling and gave him a huge hug and kiss. There, problem solved.
But, alas, as we were half way through his bath he began the splashing like crazy, soaking everything in sight, especially me! Again, I yelled, “STOP, STOP NOW, STOP IT!” And again, my yelling only made him laugh harder. This time I was extra pissed off. Again, I yanked him out of the tub and put his pajamas on in complete silence. For the first time ever, I put him to bed without reading books and without rocking him to sleep. I felt like the worst mom in the world and I felt totally unsure of how to handle/stop this behavior. I did not want every night to end in such a manner. The next night, it happened again.
Then, it dawned on me, the shower! Landon HATES the shower. He refuses to shower (unless he is in a hotel bathroom, which I totally don’t get). I knew my plan. The next night before bath, I asked him to please do little splashes only. We were singing songs and having fun, then I saw him stand up and squat down. Enter the threat: “if you splash me I am going to turn on the shower, do you want to take a shower?” He stopped instantly. “No shower mommy!” A few minutes later, he stood up again, and I gave him the same shower threat. That night ended with no splashing, no soaked bathroom, and lots of bedtime stories.
While my threat worked perfectly, I am sure it was not the best way to handle the situation. I know I am only adding to his strange fear of the shower, and what am I going to do when I want him to actually take a shower instead of a bath? I am frustrated that the only way I knew to set limits was by enforcing a threat. So, I ask, what works with your toddlers?