When I got up yesterday morning, it was calm and quiet. I leisurely brushed my teeth, washed my face, got dressed, and put on a little make-up. Then, the daily barrage began: feeding, clothing, cleaning, taking E to the potty, changing W's diaper, pre-cooking dinner, and preparing toddler crafts. From the time the boys woke up to the time we left for playgroup over two hours later, I was working non-stop.
My sister called as we were walking out the door. When she asked how I was, I told her, "I'm in a bad mood." I started explaining how I'd been running around all morning and hadn't sat down for more than 15 seconds, but mid-way through, I realized that wasn't the problem. I do most of those things everyday, and I'm certainly am not the only busy mommy in the world. No, the real reason I was in a bad mood is because I was exhausted from E's constant stream of "needs."
I need cereal!
I need a big one!
I need water!
I need clean up!
I need book!
I need yellow one!
I need Thomas!
I need go outside!
I need see airplanes!
I need, I need, I need,
Until I need to step out of the room to take a deep breath and count to ten!Whew!
This "need" thing is new. E has been using that word for a few weeks, but it's only in past few days that it's become completely overwhelming. I don't really expect him to understand the difference between "needs" and "wants" at the age of 2 1/2, but I do expect him to recognize when I'm doing what he's asking. While I'm making breakfast, I hear, "I need waffle. I need milk now. No, I need applesauce." All of those things are part of his normal breakfast, but when he's firing a list of demands at me, repeating himself over and over while I'm making it, I want to scream! Not to mention W has his own set of needs, and to be honest, I do too. Coffee is important!
I know I created this situation. Or if not created, enabled. But now, it's time for things to change. I see it as a three part process.
- Teaching E the language I want him to use. Instead of, "I need," I want to hear, "Can I please have..." or "I'd like the..." or even "I want." I think this is going to work most of the time, and hopefully it won't take long before it becomes natural for him to say what he wants in a different way.
- Ignoring what I don't want to hear. I am a big fan of reflecting what my child is saying or feeling, so he knows he is understood, but in this case, it's just not working. When I'm doing something for him and he starts one of his "I need" soliloquies, I plan to tune him out, and calmly finish the task. When I'm doing something for W or myself, I'll explain that I can help him as soon as I'm done, then ignore him if he continues.
- Time outs when he crosses the line. I don't expect it to happen often, but hitting, throwing things, and screaming when things don't go his way will result in instant time outs, as usual.