Lately we have been having a HELL of a time getting out of the house in the morning. For that matter we have been having trouble making The Boy do ANYTHING that doesn't suit his fancy at that particular moment. It could be putting on jammies, or eating dinner, or brushing teeth. Basically anything that interferes with his playing had become a battle lately. But by far the worst one was getting out of the house in the morning. Like many other people out there, I work. So whether we like it or not, there is a time schedule in the morning. We HAVE to leave by a certain time for me to get The Boy to school and make it to work on time. Plus, three days a week we have either speech therapy or his gym class first thing in the morning so we have to be there at a designated time. My point being that we HAVE to go. Just that simple.
So what was happening lately was something along these lines. About 15 minutes before we needed to leave I told The Boy it was almost time to go and put on his shoes and jacket or sweatshirt. He would scream at me, "NO! I paying! Five minutes!" and would argue and struggle while I forced him to sit down to put on his shoes and sweatshirt. I would calmly explain that it was almost time and he needed to start thinking about what toy he wanted to take in the car. That was usually answered by a similar, "NO! I paying. Go away!" (Charming, isn't he?) So I would then go about finishing getting my lunch packed up and closing up the house etc. About 5 minutes before we had to leave I would stick my head into his playroom again and tell him that it was time to go. I would turn off the TV to illustrate my point and instruct him that now was the time to pick out his toy for the car. I would tell him that I was going to load the car up and when I got back we were leaving. He usually ignored this and most often got inside his little red car to drive (mostly because he knows I have a hard time pulling him out of that thing). I would say to him, "If you don't pick out a toy now, you don't get to bring one in the car" and then head out to load the car. When I came back in he would undoubtedly be sitting in that damn car not having moved an inch. So at that point (when we are literally supposed to be walking out the door by time standards), I would pull him out of the car and start to drag him to the front door. He would then yell, "NO! I pick a toy, I pick a toy!" You should have done that when I told you to five minutes ago. Some days I would tell him that and make him get into the car without a toy. But really, that doesn't help me at all. Then the entire car ride is MISERABLE. So other times I would then say, "Fine. Go pick one NOW. We are late. We have to go!" So he would saunter over to his toy box and think about it while I am standing there saying, "Fire engine?" "NO!" "Buzz lightyear?" "NO!" You get the point... By the time he picked one we were already late. Then we would head out the door and, since we are late at this point already, I would pick him up and put him into his car seat. MAJOR tantrum ensues. "I DO IT!" "MY TURN!" He would arch his back and kick his feet and basically get himself out of the car seat and onto the floor so he could climb into the seat himself (which takes a couple of minutes). Once buckled into the seat and one the road, and at least 10 minutes late, he would be pissed and kicking the back of my seat and/or crying and I would be in the front of the car wondering how this happened AGAIN and what it is that I need to do to avoid starting off everyday like this. And most days, almost in tears myself.
Now let me say that I know he is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing. He is two. He is learning that sometimes he gets to make choices based on what he wants and what he doesn't want. And he doesn't yet get the concept that there are times when he HAS to do things that he doesn't want to do. It is my job as a parent to teach him this in a calm and loving way. The above explanation doesn't seem so calm and loving, does it? I had read that it helped to give them warnings rather than just pop in and tell him time to go, so I tried that. I had read that it helped to make him feel like he "won" some of the battles so that is why I would allow him to take a toy. I was trying. Albeit unsuccessfully, but I was doing my best.
Who knew that a simple kitchen timer could save my life? On a whim, I had my mom pick one up at the local grocery store. The Boy loves clocks and knows his numbers so I thought maybe this would help. Plus, lately he has been saying, "Five more minutes" whenever we tell him it's time to do something. So my mom and I thought that maybe if we actually set a timer to "5 more minutes," it would help him understand the concept. It was worth a try.
Best $13 she ever spent. Seriously. I tried it first at night. "[Boy], see this? See these numbers? Hear it ticking? See how the red arrow is pointing at the number 5? When it gets to the number zero it is going to buzz like a bell. When it does that, it is time for us to go and put jammies on." He took it in his hands and pointed to it and talked about the number 5 and getting down to zero. He liked it. It was fancy. A new toy. So while he played, every 30 seconds or so he would come back over to the timer and look at it and tell me that it was almost to zero, or that he had 5 minutes left. And after 5 minutes, the bells rang. He heard it and ran over to it. "BELLS Mommy! Bells go off!" "Yup," I said, "What does that mean?" And I swear to you he said, "JAMMIES!" and ran off in the direction of his bedroom. Holy shit. "Did you just see that?" I asked to my empty living room.
About an hour later I tried it again for bedtime. It worked the same way. No f-ing way! I couldn't believe it. But the true test came the next morning. About 10 minutes before we were supposed to leave I turned the timer on and told him to watch it and that when it went off it meant it was time to go to speech. I was actually loading my car when the bells went off but when I got back in the house, there he was. "Mommy! Bells! Time to go!" He stood there with toy in hand for the car ready to walk out the door.
That was 4 mornings ago. It has worked like that every morning since. In fact one of the mornings I wasn't completely ready to walk out when the timer went off and he was like, "Moommmyyy!!! Time to goooo!" Our mornings are lovely again. He sings happily in the car and plays with his toy, we haven't been late to anything all week long, and most importantly, I am not in tears before 9:00am. Who knew?!?!