My daughter has been on a coloring spree lately. For the past several weeks, she will sit with a coloring book and color in it for an hour. Cute, and quiet to boot. Unfortunately she has taken the love of her crayon to realms beyond her coloring pages. I am finding the markings everywhere...on the top of the staircase, on the car door, on furniture.
Today we were at a library story time and I saw her lift her coloring page up and begin to purposely color the table underneath the paper.
Very calmly I began, "Sammi, we only color paper. Please put your crayons away. We have to leave now." Of course my request was met by protest and eventually tears. As I walked my screaming child out of the library, I felt my self-control begin to slip. "Sammi, quit fussing," I firmly stated. "Sammi, you need to stop fussing now," I threatened about thirty seconds later. Ten seconds later I yelled, "Samantha!" (Big tears and loud screams now.)
I decided to switch tactics. I sat Sam down in her chair and told her, "Samantha, I need you to take a deep breath and calm down before we walk back home." (I had decided today would be a good day to walk to the library...about 1 mile from the house. I was kinda wishing I had driven us there instead at this point.) I asked her to calm down again and this time modeled the deep breaths for her, but to no avail; her crocodile tears and wails were even bigger.
In an instant, I switched back to my fear tactic. Tugging her up to her feet by the arm I shouted, "Come on, crybaby. Let's go." A few steps later a statement came out of my mouth I swore I would never use on my own children, "Quit crying or I will give you a reason to cry!"
Thankfully, a quarter mile into our return home the tears had ceased. I began speaking calmly to her (I felt pretty rotten at this point.) I asked quietly, "Sammi, do you know why Mommy was mad?" "Yes," she answered, "because I wouldn't stop crying." "No, Baby. It was because you colored on something that wasn't paper."
But even as I corrected her I knew she had the answer right the first time. I had an opportunity to teach her a lesson and I didn't. I had the opportunity to react to her behavior patiently and I instead responded in anger.
All it took to get the crayon off the stairway and the car door was a bit of Windex and about 2 minutes worth of scrubbing. I wonder how much scrubbing it will take to wash away my mistake...