We all have those days when our usually polite little children get defiant. All of a sudden you find yourself in a stand-off in which you have to be firm and hand down an ultimatum you would rather not carry out.
Such was the situation Sunday evening when my wife and I were getting ready for supper and Jake, our 3-year-old, demanded, “I want dinner!”
We were about to give him his plate of pasta when he shouted his orders but I stopped and asked him, “What do you say?”
“Dinner!” he said.
I asked him again and when he refused to say “please,” I held the plate back. I told him that he would not be eating dinner until he asked politely. But Jake absolutely refused and would not say the simple word we wanted to hear. We were having a classic toddler standoff.
“Mommy, Daddy, may I please have some dinner?” I encouraged him to repeat, but nothing. The back and forth continued for a half hour and Jake began to shriek now like he had swallowed the fiery moon.
I handed down my ultimatum. If Jake refused again to be polite, I told him that I would take his plate of food, dump it in the trash, and he would have to eat yogurt for dinner. Well, the standoff continued and I really didn’t want to take his dinner away from him but if I backed down he would learn that my authority was meaningless.
I picked the plate up and took it into the kitchen and put Jake’s dinner in the trash. This was very difficult for me. Many times in the past, I have banked on threats to get him to follow instructions. But often I would give him second, third and fourth chances. Not this time.
Jake became enraged and cried, “I want my pastaaaaa!” But, I went to the fridge, pulled out a cup of yogurt and placed it down in front of my usually sweet little boy.
Now he was eating the yogurt but continued to shout for pasta at the same time. We told him to stop screaming but to no avail. I warned him that if he didn’t stop, he would go to bed at 7:30 rather than his usual time of 8:30. And still he didn’t stop. So I pushed the red button. It was now 7:05 and I told him he would be going to bed in 25 minutes. Our meltdown reached Fukushima level.
Jake cried for the entire 25 minutes left in his day and at 7:30 I dressed him in his pajamas and put him to bed. I was calm and stoic. Jake has to learn to always be polite and respectful. At the same time, I want him to know that Mommy and Daddy are in charge he has to follow instructions.
I know I did the right thing during this standoff but, to be honest, I still hated myself for it.