Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pantry words

I have a belief that for some things, children have a certain number of times they need to "let it all out" and then they're done. If you stifle them, it just makes it pour out of them.

This happened when Jack found swear words. I wasn't allowed to swear at all growing up, not even the "unlady-like" words...and look what happened to me. ;) I swear like a sailor, although I keep it under wraps around the kiddos. I guess I didn't get out my necessary forbidden words, which became a running joke between my mom and me. If I wanted to ruffle her feathers for fun, I'd let out the f-word. It was a big hit during her visits, and she'd fake exasperation and look horrified. I think it helped seeing that I grew up to be decently respectful as a citizen of the world, other than my potty mouth in private. So it was recreational for us at that point.

When Jack started saying a few bad words, we first tried telling him those weren't nice words. He was about 2, and that didn't work at all. (See previous posts about 2 year olds). So, I told him he could say anything he wanted, however much he wanted, but he had to go in the pantry. He spent the next few days hanging out a lot in the pantry, saying naughty words. It was hilarious. We'd be non-chalant when he came out, but giggled behind hands while he was inside there whispering things. Occasionally, he'd ask us to come with him into the pantry to check on a word. "Is 'goofy' a pantry word?" We had some great dialogue.

I think he got it out of his system, though, and we consider the project a HUGE success. He lets me know (especially while driving) if I let out a "pantry word." It helps that we told him we'd pay him a quarter every time we said something we shouldn't. =)

Shouting "No, Mommy!" as a knee-jerk reaction appears to be along the same lines for Andrew. If I try to tell him to please not speak to me that way, it's almost like he can't help himself. He muffles his face into a pillow and says it again: "NO, Mommy!"...like his little body's wiring MUST say it, but his mind doesn't want to. It's adorable and yet frustrating to watch, on his behalf. I know what's going on with his little mind, but he doesn't understand. It must be a strange sensation to have your mind defy your wiring.

So I shifted gears, and it appears to be going well. We're having a lot of luck just removing the tension from the situation...like the pantry words. When he shouts "no," we ask him to say it again but louder. "Let it all out!" He says it again with passion, then we have a contest to see who can say "No, Mommy!" the loudest. He puts all his dramatic flair into it, and Jack or I say: "Wow, that one was REALLY good, Andrew." It ends in giggles, and he seems to release whatever it is he needed. Tension removed.

Thank goodness.

Steve and I remember vaguely doing this with Jack, but it's amazing how blurry certain memories can become. I don't really remember it with the clarity of the pantry words, to know how quickly or how well it worked. But I have high hopes that this will smooth out some of the rough patches on his path towards emotional independence.


We'll see.

1 comment:

David said...

Sounds like Romans 5:20/7:5 in action.