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If you didn’t read about Sunday’s outlasting session, you should. Here’s the rest of the story.

I may have won the battle that I posted about, but I was nowhere near winning the war. Manny was determined not to give up his power over me, and even if he had to surrender a little here and there, he was still making up for it by defiant body language, and even swearing (well, toddler version, which sounds like “da da da da da” in a clipped, very angry tone). He would admit defeat when he had to, but he was holding out for the next time.

The simplest way I know how to do this is to share some of my slightly-edited posts on the Raising Godly Tomatoes forum. This one was posted Sunday evening.

Well… everything was fine today… until I asked him to give me something he was holding, as a test. It was about two hours ago–maybe a little less, but probably not much. I was just about to sit down to lunch. He refused to give me the thing (I think it was a small plastic bottle), and I went through the same process, except that I was so hungry (late, you know) that I decided to put him in the corner to see if his rebellion would calm down, and give me a chance to eat (within arm’s reach). It didn’t do much. He seemed to cheer up, if I smiled at him, but as soon as I asked for the item, his rebellion welled up again and he positively refused to comply, complete with full body language (like trying to stomp both feet at once, except he can’t jump yet) and angry grunts. The only thing I can seem to do successfully is to make him stop crying with the hand over mouth on/off thing.

He alternates between either refusing to let something go, or throwing it deliberately over my hand. If I hold it while he’s holding it, he won’t throw it, just pulls back, so I know it’s deliberate.

So, after almost 2 hours, Daddy (who had come by to back me up from time to time, but who had mostly been doing other things) figured that he must be tired (it was about this time yesterday that he went down for a nap), so when his hand kind of went limp and he dropped the item that we were working with at this point (several items away from the original one–because he won’t have anything to do with something once he starts throwing it), we laid him down, made him stop protesting that, and I imagine he’s asleep by now (5 minutes later), because I can’t hear a peep from his room.

So… I thought I had had a very thorough victory yesterday. Why can’t I make it again?

Also, no one really answered me about the not cuddling thing during the battle. He won’t look me in the eye, but he wants to just lay his head down on my chest and rest. I kind of assume that I shouldn’t allow that until he surrenders… am I right about that? I will hold him on my lap, either facing me or sitting on one leg facing kind of forward and to the side (this latter position allows me to put my hand over his mouth easily to stop angry cries).

That was my Sunday afternoon. And he woke from the nap just as defiant as when he went down. I tried working with him before supper, but I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. During this process, he added a new word to his vocabulary: Uh uh. And he meant it! Aaaarrrrggg!

Well, after venting my frustration in several posts on the forum, Elizabeth wrote again. I always feel so excited when I see her post, because I know she will have some wisdom for me, packaged in concise, easy-to-understand language. Here’s what she wrote:

Basically you need to have a good outlasting session with him. NO cuddling, NO smiling at him. Forget everything except outlasting him until he obeys. Sit him on your lap and hand him something, then tell him to give it to you. If he won’t, keep telling him to (pause and wait between each command) and occasionally give him a swat and tell him again to give it to you. Outlast him even if it takes 3 hours. If he throws it deliberately, carry him over to it, then tell him to pick it up. OUTLAST him (with commands and occasional swats) until he obeys. Once he obeys, tell him matter-of-factly, “Good.” Then sit him back on your lap and go back to telling him to hand it to you. Even after he does it, test him a few times. Do NOT get happy and smiley with him until you are all done and he has respect for you.

Tall orders, for sure. But simple. She posted that during the wee hours Monday morning, and here’s my response after breakfast:

Okay, that is what I figured. I’m worn out right now though. This is one of those days I wished I wasn’t against caffeine! LOL! Mornings are hard. I had to feed my husband and children (not to mention myself), then I had to bathe the kids, and do the breakfast dishes (so that I will have some motivation to make lunch so my husband will have something to eat when he gets home. That is all done now and it’s about half an hour until I put the little guy down. Then I’m going to take a nap! Then I’ll make lunch (he’ll probably sleep through that), and then once lunch is out of the way, I will give him my afternoon. I need more energy than I have now if I’m going to outlast like that. Because right now all I feel like doing is curling up on my bead with a nice warm blanket and trying to sleep! Hopefully I’ll still feel like that when he’s ready to go down for a nap!

Looking back at how my daughter was at this age (I got serious with training her at 11 months), I remember how happy and compliant she was with nearly everything I asked. She would look at me before opening a cupboard door to see if it was okay with me. She would come grinning when I called. Whenever #3 shows up, I’m going to get serious with training sooner than later!

That morning, I mostly avoided conflict at all costs. Didn’t request anything of him that I thought he might resist, but I didn’t interact much with him either. Got him down for a nap (thankfully that is relatively easy), and rested a little, though I didn’t actually sleep. But my energy did go up in the afternoon, so after lunch I challenged him to a battle. Just before I did, I posted this on the forum (and something similar in my Facebook status):

All right. I’m declaring war. If you read this post, pray for me, that I will have wisdom and endurance, and for my son that he will submit. I’ll post a follow-up when it’s over.

I got a bottle of baby lotion that he had a fancy for, gave it to him, let him play with it for a few seconds, then asked for it. He threw it. I put him down on the floor beside it and told him to pick it up. He refused. It took almost half an hour before he would pick it up, but then he would throw it. Another half hour later, he finally would hand it to me nicely, but he wouldn’t take it back. When I moved him to my lap, he wouldn’t pick it up at all. And he was still quite angry and defiant. Kind of like, “Okay, I’ll do it because I have to, but I don’t have to like it!”

Finally I realized he was worn out and put him down for a nap. First I changed his diaper, and in the time it took me to wash out the diaper, he fell asleep! Poor little guy! He really was tired! I think he gets more stubborn when he’s tired. I know I do. And irrational.

After he got down for the nap, I posted about my battle, and got this encouragement from Elizabeth:

You are doing GREAT! It doesn’t really matter what you do when you get him up as long as you outlast him again if he refuses to obey you. It’s not about picking something up, or handing something to you, or coming to you, etc. It’s about OBEDIENCE. If you get that point across to him – that he must always obey you – then he will in anything.

So, that said, pick something he doesn’t want to do, that YOU can control. For example, if he wants to stand and you want him to sit, it’s pretty easy for you to outlast him because he will eventually get tired of standing. However, if he is sitting and you are trying to make him stand, you may get tired before he does. As you get better at this you’ll be able to read his mind better and think of ways to motivate him to obey sooner, but don’t worry about that right now, just win no matter how long it takes. He thinks he’s your boss and you need to correct that thinking.

Okay, so if he seems to have forgotten all about everything when he wakes up and is cooperative, it’s okay to feed and change him first before going back to asking him to do something he doesn’t want to do (and going back to the same thing is fine). So you can manipulate WHEN you do this a little, but if he rebels on something else, then you MUST stop and deal with it, so pick your timing without overlooking any rebellion.

That was all just a hint. You can go right back to the battle the second he wakes up if you want to.

Isn’t that first paragraph so full of wisdom? “It’s about obedience.” Really, that’s true. If we train our kids to obey everything we say, then we don’t have to teach them a long list of rules that they couldn’t remember anyway; we just have to tell them what to do. Of course, this is for small children. Older children learn the rules and learn to obey for different reasons, but with small children, they need to learn to obey.

Anyhow, back to the story.

I got him up and he seemed cheerful, so I didn’t start testing the same thing. I got him supper, he was fine. Fed him, fed his sister and myself, everything was great. Then this evening I decided to try again, to see how he was doing. His sister’s jacket was laying on the floor, and I was about to ask him to pick it up, when he saw Daddy go into Sissy’s room, or come out of it. My memory is a bit fuzzy. Anyhow, he smiled and ran to see Daddy (he’s a real Daddy’s boy). That was fine, but then I asked him to come to me. He balked, got a swat or two, then came. Maybe I should have settled for that, and repeated the coming to Mommy. But instead I asked him to please pick up the jacket. He refused. It’s been over an hour, and he still won’t. I know he knows what I want. When I ask him, he jerks and sometimes he cries. Funny thing is, he doesn’t cry for every swat, even when they really sting. It’s like he’s determined to win. It’s past his bedtime and I don’t know what I should do!

Well, that evening was a nightmare. Daddy came and helped too. Finally towards the end of the evening, Daddy took over, so I could pick up, do dishes, and generally make the house ready for the next day. The little guy seemed more determined to resist when both of us were present, even though we both were just as firm with him. Finally, about an hour after his bedtime, he came to Daddy several times in a row, so we changed him and put him to bed. He fell asleep almost instantly.

Tuesday morning dawned. And with it, the battle resumed:

I greeted him with his usual sippy of milk and a big smile. He was fine until the milk was gone, then he threw the cup (normal, actually). I told him to pick it up, he refused. I said to myself, “I really didn’t want a battle so early in the morning! I need to get my husband breakfast so he can go to work!” But I spent a few minutes with him; then when I realized he wasn’t about to surrender, I parked him in a corner of the kitchen floor with the cup in front of him, and went about my work, pausing now and then to remind him of my expectations (pick it up and hand it to me nicely, not throwing). If I saw him moving or doing anything other than just sitting there, I would stop what I was doing and say, “Pick it up and give it to Mommy.” He refused for a while, but surrendered before breakfast was finished! But then before I could get him in the high chair, he refused to come to me and I ended up getting most of my breakfast down (or all of?) before he got around to coming. I fed him, changed him, and put him in the play pen so I could get some work done. But then I saw him with his sister’s lip gloss. Not good. I asked him for it, and as of now, he’s sitting on my lap resisting. Sigh…

I’m wondering, it seems that he is in 100% full rebellion, and is determined to resist me at almost every turn. Sometimes he will be happy and cheerful, then he will flip a switch and be nasty and resisting, even refusing to do things he normally would do. I’m not sure how to reach his heart. This is getting frustrating!

After thinking about it a little, I realized that I was never coming to a full resolution with him, or at least not every time. When he surrendered in one thing, the ideal would be to test him immediately in something else that he wouldn’t like, to see if the surrender was genuine or just an escape tactic. But there was always something to hinder that–his meals and naps, cooking for the family, dealing with his sister (who, thankfully, can keep herself occupied outside a good deal lately). I posted about that, and Elizabeth responded,

It sounds like you doing fine. KEEP IT UP. You do need to come all the way to a conclusion a few time, not “almost” all the way, but it sounds like he might be caving a little.

And it was true. After that major, two-hour ordeal with Daddy the night before, his surrenders were coming quicker (less than half an hour). So bolstered by this encouragement, I made it a point to outlast every little defiance, even a simple jerk of his body when I picked him up or put him down or whatever. Later in the afternoon I posted this:

I think he is “caving,” finally! woohoo

After a few battles at lunch time, in which I outlasted every little tiny show of rebellion (including some I had been more or less ignoring in the past, like arching when I tried to pick him up), he is suddenly a very happy, compliant boy. I’m not holding my breath, but … just as I typed that, I heard him going down the hall, and I called him to come to me; he grinned and came toddling down at top speed toward me. So I think I may have just cracked the case! Like I said, I’m not holding my breath, but I think this is real progress. Now my consistency over the next few days is going to be crucial, I think.

Elizabeth responded,

Don’t overlook anything now, because if you do you’ll be right back at square one and it will be HARDER because he’ll think that if he “just holds out a little longer” you will cave.

And he was a joy the rest of the day. Still took almost every opportunity to test me, but would surrender in 2 or 3 minutes–or less. No more half-hour to 2-hour outlasting sessions! The course of the war has turned, and I have a happy little guy again!

And he’s truly such a joy! I can ask for his hand, and he’ll grab my finger and walk down the hall with me. I can ask for what he’s holding, and he’ll give it to me. If it’s safe, I usually give it back, praising him for his obedience. He still balks at coming when I call, but a swat or two usually reverses that in short order, and actually cheers him up! I can handle a two-minute battle any day! I’m so glad I persisted.

Now, I know that was a long post. But perhaps it will help someone out there who is struggling with a strong-willed child and doesn’t know what to do.

Just a note: According to Elizabeth, the outlasting will work without swats (given one at a time, and only stinging the surface, not hurting deep),  but it will take longer. I don’t think I would have been able to last long enough if I hadn’t had swats as a back-up. And when you see how happy and loving he is now, you would have to agree that the approach I used was worth it. For everyone. Especially him.

2 Responses

  1. #1

    Hi, Thanks for posting the outlasting session. I tried to use the strategies in Raising Godly Tomatoes years ago. Somehow, and i’m not sure how now after reading it again just this week, I thought I had to swat after everytime he disobeyed, so I told my son to eat his dinner, he refused, I swatted (hard), this was repeated over and over untill I couldn’t bring my self to swatt one more time. I then throw in the whole idea. Now I have 6 children and though many people comment on how well behaved my children are, I KNOW they do not respect me as they should. I have a number of strong willed children and I know that if I want the sort of submission from all of them that you talk about requiring from your son I have a massive battle ahead. I am already tired and very worried that I will not have the energy to outlast. My eldest is a daughter who is nearly 12 (very scary), I have another who is 10, sons aged 8, 7 and 3 and a 7 month old daughter. Where do I begin!? I know to start now with my baby and I have started this week. But I am scarred to take on all my other children. My eldest daughter and my second and third eldest son are very strong willed! I feel like I am about to wage war! Will I have the steminar. We home school which means I am so busy making sure everyone is getting through their studies etc but it also means I can keep my children with me 100% so that is a start. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate hearing them. To read your post has really helped me to see how this whole thing works. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  1. […] Guidance, it suddenly makes sense. Now I know how to subdue my child’s will (see my post Major Outlasting Session–The Rest of the Story for a rather lengthy […]

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