"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger."
- Proverbs 15:1
I know the bible is full of truth, but boy have I learned lately how true this little nugget is. If there was anyone (or anything) that could bring us to the brink of anger and frustration, it's been Benjamin. He is a firecracker of a little boy. We give our boys a lot of rein, allowing them plenty of room to explore themselves and their surroundings. But that means that when we ask for something done, we really need it done. The older two boys are what modern experts call "compliant" children. For whatever reason (aiming to please, seeing an easier path, enjoying rewards, hating consequences) they see the benefits of complying to our instructions.
Benjamin is what you would call "non-compliant." In daily life, that translates to his pushing back against us in every single thing. The best visual example is this: Benjamin is absolutely fine to participate and function in an activity in a room, as long as the doors are open. But if you close the doors, he's like a lion that feels trapped. Although he hadn't even tried to run out the open door, now he feels driven to try and escape out the closed door. I've also noticed that as long as someone else is causing noise/a scene, he's content to sit by quietly. But if everything else is running smoothly, he feels the drive to cause a ruckus. At home, he'll choose not to do something simply because you want him to do it.
The result of his stubborn nature (in combination with a new baby and very, very little sleep) is that I lose my temper. I threaten, I discipline, I raise my voice, I plead, and huff in frustration. And Benjamin's reaction to all of this is to push back harder. "Grievous words stir up anger."
Last night when Benjamin started to kick up a fuss at going to bed (which was threatening to wake the already sleeping other children) I pulled him into my lap on a rocking chair. I covered his mouth to muffle the screaming (sound carries in a small house) and told him he needed to calm his body and stop screaming. In between bursts I calmly explained the consequence of not going to bed: no big breakfast in the morning, only cold cereal. For a full five minutes I talked over and over about what was involved in going to bed, and what would result if he didn't comply. Then I took him upstairs, put him in bed, and saw nothing more of him that night. "A soft answer turneth away wrath."
I can't say it always works. Sometimes Juliette needs me, or the boys, or the dinner on the stove. I don't always have the luxury of the time needed to sit down with Benjamin and explain things. Sometimes I lose it. But I have realized that yelling at a three year old, especially Benjamin, has absolutely zero benefit to anyone.