Monday, October 11, 2010

Taming the Table Tyrant

Last night we resumed our typical dinner routine, with Matt, the girls, and me at the table trying our best to enjoy dinner while Toby screamed, writhed, wriggled, pushed, panted, and squawked, attempting to break free from his high chair. He had devoured his fruit, and now that nothing else on his tray looked appealing, he was determined to move on to more exciting ventures. Matt and I were equally determined that it was time he learn to sit for longer than three minutes at a meal. And so he squalled, and we did our best to ignore him.

Mom, I've got better things to do with my time

"Why don't you just put him in his crying cage?" Hannah suggested, looking with disgust at her unrefined brother as she dipped a bite of cantaloupe in her barbeque sauce. "His crying cage? Do you mean his crib?" I asked. "Yeah," Naomi piped up, forgetting not to talk with her mouth full, "I'd shay that'sh a good plashe for him." Emma, not to be left out of the conversation, contributed, "Yeah, I ay ah a guah pay oh im!"

"Toby," I said sternly, to gain his attention, "do you want to go to your crying cage?" He froze, half-twisted around in his high chair, and thought a minute. Then he answered in a pitiful, solemn tone, "Bush-a gu gush-a go ga do-wee." "What did he just say?" I asked Matt. Hannah answered instead, "He said, 'Bush-a gu gush-a go ga do-wee.'" All three girls erupted in giggles. Toby, sensing that he had had something to do with this joke, giggled too, happy at least that something of note was happening. But it wasn't long before the spell broke, and Toby resumed his stuggle for freedom.

Lunch today was far worse, with Toby reverting to food-flinging, something we thought we had tamed months ago. I'm debating whether he would be happier, and perhaps rise to the occasion of table-worthy manners, if we actually put him at the table in a booster seat. Or, the weather is nice again today...maybe a peaceful dinner in the park again? Of course, winter is coming, that's only a temporary fix. Somehow I'm going to have to tame the dinner-time tyrant, I'm just not sure whether I should use consistent, firm, loving discipline until I'm half-dead or just go for the duct-tape.


  1. Duct tape would probably be easier....

    Have you tried "isolation"???? I sort of like the girls' idea of the crying cage, that is good wisdom on their part. Isolation worked well with Nathan, though I have to say that he was hardly ever a struggle. But when he chose to have his fits, he had them in his room and was not allowed to come out until he could regain his composure. No problem with having a bad day, or having a fit (as we all have them and feel like that), it was just that you do not get to ruin my day with your fit!

    Toby is at the table to entertain and get attention and not to eat, it appears. And you figured out at the park that he can sit still and eat (may not have been a smart move on his part but he proved that he is very capable of doing this.) So he is up for the challenge!

    There could be a variety of ideas of how to exclude him from eating at the table. Put away the high chair...set it out in the garage??? Put him in his pen...another room...whatever is safe, and let the rest of you eat in peace while he screams. Let him know that he is not welcomed at the table with the rest of the family. When he is quiet he can come eat in the kitchen. Perhaps he can picnic on the floor? Do you think that he would like to earn the priviledge of sitting at the table with the rest of the family???

    Ignoring the little "tyrant" works when kids are attention seeking. He doesn't get to rule the family with his moods! You know best what he is doing. Is he just trying to gain your attention???

    And remember, as they say "A toddler's only goal is to rule the world!"

    A tyrant when little (that is not dealt with) becomes a bigger tyrant when they grow up. He won't always be this way but there are sure to be battles over other things. And his basic question that is being asked and answered right now is "who's the boss?"

    Grandma Johnson always said, "..little people...little problems...bigger people just become bigger problems if they are not dealt with when they are little. It is much easier to deal with little people problems."

    Best wishes with this "war" is not easy. Someday this too shall be a distant memory!! I will be excited to learn the outcome of "who's the boss?" =) I will pray for your strength as you perservere!

  2. Good thoughts, I need to think it through still before I decide which course of action to take for sure. I'll update you with how it goes!

  3. I'm sure you will figure out just the right way to help in his need for adventure. You are a great mom! Sometimes us moms just need encouragement that we are doing the right thing than the advice method. Boys are different than girls. Just think, it goes by so fast and this too shall pass. I'm sure Grandma would have said something like that too. I can see her doing such a thing. Someday he will have one just like him to torture him :)