Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Dances with Crayons

Holding a miscellaneous container full of something, Owlet waits to catch my eye.

Then she dumps it on the floor.

Aaaaugh! I am weary of being bad cop, good cop, anything cop mom. Having to select a response (or non-response) to upended containers is among my least favorite of parenting activities. Give me the poopy diaper any day.

I read peaceful parenting articles and blogs and Facebook comment threads like it’s my job, because, well, it is my job, and I’ve had a lot less training for it than for my “real” job. I’ve read lots of really excellent suggestions for dealing with the above situation. Sometimes I role-play them in my head while falling asleep, drowsily convincing myself it will work tomorrow.

I have tried all of the following strategies, arranged for your convenience in order according to how well I think they work, from makes-me-feel-like-an-ogre to makes-me-feel-like-a-fairy-princess:

– Yelling. (Not intentionally, but yes, I have tried it. Multiple times. Sorry, innocent Platypup, whose ear is usually too close to my big fat mouth. Sorry, my dear Owlet. I do earnestly apologize afterward, and usually bring it up again at bedtime in a calm, cozy way, but I know I just need to stop doing it, already.)

– Demanding that she clean up by herself. (Sure mom. Nice try.)

– Asking her to clean up with me, with blatantly forced cheer. (This one works just fine if it was an accident, but otherwise not so much.)

– Cleaning it up myself while explaining what we do and do not do with our crayons, breakfast cereal, etc. (Success in that the mess gets cleaned up, but still sort of hairy around the ears in an ogrish way.)

– Cleaning it up myself while maintaining as little expression or interaction as possible. (Same as the previous example, but maybe the ear hair isn’t quite so long and luxurious.)

– Cleaning it up myself and attempting to make it look like the most fun thing in the world. (IF –big if — I’m able to pull this one off, it is fantastic. I am, sadly, not often able to muster up the appropriate mood. But it’s worth it and I should keep trying.)

– Making a game around cleaning it up that is simply irresistible. (Same as previous with extra fairy dust.)

– Say something simple, like “Crayons are for drawing, not throwing” as gently as possible and then step away from whatever I was doing and pull her in for a hug. Do a quick check to make sure she doesn’t need to eat or use the bathroom, and find out what she would like to do together. Casually mention that talking to Mommy about what you need is usually more effective than throwing things. Then, if it seems possible, work the picking-up into the game plan as Step One — “Great, first we’ll just clean this mess quickly and then we’ll do that thing you want to do” — or, if it seems like immediate bonding is required first, make picking-up Step Two — “Sure, we can do that now. After we finish we’ll tackle this mess.” (This one always works, complete with wand and sparkly wings. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible due to baby brothers, time sensitive cooking moments, etc. But I think it is more possible than I’m willing to see in the moment. Gotta make this the standard response whenever feasible.)

I’d love to learn from you other Fairy Princess/Ogre types out there. Anything that does or doesn’t work for you?

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2 thoughts on “Dances with Crayons

  1. I can’t even remember the last time it was a “problem” but my response (at home, because I turn into a whole different person with other adults present or with other peoples things) is “That looked fun! Let’s clean it up and try it again over this sheet (or bucket or box)” She’s hasn’t been into spilling her food or drinks in awhile but when she did I would offer to make her a batch of blue/yellow/purple water and a place to pour it or get out her bean or rainbow rice box after our meal was finished. When we use our light table she general just dumps various things all over it that we sort together later. I think there are so many opportunities to dump things in my house it’s never been a source of tension between us.

    I read somewhere on the internet or some parenting book something that translates in my head like, “Clean up with your children with joy and when you’re not there anymore it will just be your children and joy cleaning up.”

  2. Thanks for the reminder to provide sanctioned throwing/dumping opportunities! I’ve gotten a bit less creative in my play suggestions since Platypup was born (can’t imagine why…)

    That “clean with joy” thing is seriously in my head all of the time. I pretty much hate cleaning, though I try really hard to see the fun in it just to keep my sanity on straight. I’d love to give my kids a fondness for cleanliness and organization.

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