Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Flop and Flee

I have come up with a new tactic for handling my daughter. When Sophie is happy, she is a beautiful sight to behold. Her enthusiasm when she is excited about something is one of my favorite things in this world to see. And she has a laugh that is nothing short of infectious. Unfortunately, Sophie tends to be UN-happy at least as often as she is happy. When Sophie is unhappy, she can push my buttons and frustrate me like no other person on this planet. She complains with a ferocity that I have never seen before. She complains about absolutely anything and everything. Her feet are cold...she's hungry...she's tired...her brother looked at her...the picture she colored is "ugly"...her lunch is yucky...her shirt's not pink...on and on. I don't understand how a child who is not yet four years old can be THAT disgruntled. Seriously...what has happened in her short, short life to make her so very cantankerous? Yesterday, at about 4:30 in the afternoon, she began complaining that she was hungry. I explained that I was going to walk on the treadmill quickly and then start cooking dinner. Immediately, Sophie began whining loudly that she didn't want dinner because dinner was "yuck." The conversation went a little like this.

Sophie: I'm hungry.
Me: How are you hungry? You ate lunch and you had an after-school snack.
Sophie: But I'm hungry.
Me: OK...I am going to walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes and then I will start dinner.
Sophie: I don't want dinner!
Me: But I thought you were hungry?
Sophie: But I don't want dinner!
Me: Well then how are you going to get UN-hungry if you don't eat dinner?
Sophie: Dinner is yucky!
Me: Do you know what we are having for dinner?
Sophie: It's yucky!
Me: Sophie...I don't even know yet what we are having for dinner, so how do you know it's yucky?
Sophie: I know it's yucky! And I'm hungry!
Me: What are we having for dinner that is so yucky?
Sophie: Tell me what we're having.
Me: I'm not telling you so that you can just complain about it.
Sophie: I'm hungry. I'm hungry!
Me: So what do you want for dinner?
Sophie. Nothing. I'm hungry!
Me: (walked away)

As you can see, Sophie didn't really have an agenda. There was nothing in particular she wanted to eat. Her only objective was to complain about whatever it was I had not yet even decided to cook for dinner. She was complaining for the sheer sake of complaining.

So...as I mentioned above, I have developed a new tactic for dealing with Sophie's constant complaints that has proven fairly effective so far. I call it the Flop and Flee. It goes a little something like this. When Sophie begins her whining and complaining, I give her one chance to stop before completing cutting her off. If she refuses to stop the complaining, I pick her up, carry her to her room, and flop her onto her bed. I calmly tell her that she can come out of her room when she is finished complaining. I then quickly flee the room. Initially, Sophie will scream even louder. However, she has yet to cross the threshold of her room. She will sit in her room with the door wide open and yell, "Let me out of here!" But she does not come out of her room until she is finished screaming. Yesterday, she stayed in there for about five minutes. Then she appeared behind me in the kitchen, calm as could be. I asked her if she was done. She said yes, again perfectly serene, and asked for a drink of water. That was the end of it. Perhaps allowing her to rage at the imagined injustice of life by herself...alone in her room...allows her to get it all out. I guess we all need to vent occasionally. Sophie simply vents more than the average three year old. She's an overachiever in that particular department.


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