One of the the things I've mentioned on this blog and in other writing and, if I know you, a lot in conversation, is that Gabriel can be kind diffcult to deal with. It started shortly after Aidy was born, which made a lot of sense, and then continued with no end in sight, which made less sense to us.
He's challenging in that he meets every decision, change of schedule and suggestion with at least mild displeasure, and sometimes all-out war. For example, this morning I suggested he wear shorts and a t-shirt because it was going to be so hot. Picking the shorts was no problem. He chose the black, soft ones obviously. But picking the shirt proved to be a problem. I think because he hadn't worn many of his short-sleeved shirts since last year, and some of them were totally new so he hadn't worn them at all. So the thought of getting back into a comfortable relationship with one of these shirts at that hour of the morning was simply too much. He cried and yelled and wandered around the house with his pajama top on, and I followed him around with a death grip on my coffee mug until we came to a decision.
One of the delights J and I have had the chance to experience this year is watching Gabe go to kindergarten, and excel in every single way possible. He can read, he does math problems for fun and he wins his school behavior award every month. I know parents are always saying how their kids are angels at school and poorly behaved at home, but I want to be clear our situation is different. That the disparity between the school-Gabriel and the home-Gabriel is out of control ridiculous. Behavior award every month vs. I wouldn't let him eat that Hershey's mini chocolate bar he found the other day with his breakfast, and so screamed and basically tried to pick up our furniture and throw it.
Still, this year has been nice, because it's clear that he's a normal, great kid, who - yes - can be challenging when he's middle child-ing it at home, but is absolutely crushing kindergarten. Everybody likes it when their child is doing well at school and we're really proud of him, even when we are flabbergasted. At the most recent report card conferences, Gabe's teacher told us how much the other kids enjoy playing with him, because he is, "so kind," and I immediately texted my mom and mother-in-law to tell them because it was so hilarious.
Gabe was clearly ready for kindergarten, and happy to have his own group of friends; I think the whole experience has been really helpful for him. But the other thing that's completely changed the way we react to his behavior (from running in terror and/or crying and/or screaming and/or Googling "middle child syndrome real?" to handling his tantrums more gracefully) is the book 1-2-3 Magic, which, by the way, I have in no way been asked to push here, it just honestly helped us, and that's why I'm bringing it up.
I'd heard of the book before, but we didn't get it until we went to a therapist who recommended we try it and a few techniques. That's right. We went to a therapist because we couldn't handle our son. I'm here to tell you, parents, that this is a thing you can do. You can call up a professional who will tell you how to be a better mom or dad. We only went to see our therapist twice - it was all we needed - and I'm so glad we did.
The technique outlined in the book is beyond simple. When there's bad behavior, your child gets warnings: first one, then two and then if they don't stop by three, they get a time out or a privlege or toy taken away. This worked really well for us, but also for Gabe, because there was a clear set of expectations that had really been lacking before. When he was bad, maybe we'd punish him or maybe we'd lay our heads in our hands and open a bottle of wine, ANYBODY'S GUESS.
Now we have a plan, and - most of the time, but obviously not all, who do you think we are? - we adhere to that plan, calmly counting the kids' bad behavior (you won't be surprised to hear that Gabe is the main recipient of this method, but we use it across the board to be fair) instead of blowing up out of sheer frustration.
It's much better, and worth it, even though Aidy (aka Regina George) has taken up using the method on us in her more fiesty moments. Like yesterday, when the poor girl was woken from a deep car nap upon arriving home, and told me that I was "bad and a stinky mommy, and you're gonna go in a time out, you ARE, and YOU'RE GONNA CRY!"