What we thought was an occasional revolt against underwear has become more of a regular event. After #3's bath last night, he put on his pajamas without underwear. I decided not to pick that battle with him, but told him that he needed to put on underwear in the morning for school.
However, when he got dressed in the morning, underwear was not among his selected items. I asked him to put the underwear on, and then the revolution began. His face scrunched up, his flag went up, and he screamed something that sounded like the way hawks say "f-u" to each other.
Ok, ok. I need to redirect him. If I approach this with humor, I may be able to pull him out of the crazy zone. So I grabbed the Spiderman and Batman underwear out of his drawer, I held them both up and offered him a choice. He screamed as if someone threw acid on him. I put a pair on my head and asked him if he liked the hat, he half-smiled then quickly resumed scrunchy face. I may have a shot here, but then he screamed, "I don't like underwear. I HATE underwear. I want to destroy all the underwear in the universe" Ok, at least you have strong convictions.
Now, any parent who is at similar crossroads would consider backing down and letting them go commando to school to avoid any more drama. But the thing with behavior modification is that you can't. Once you decide that something is unacceptable, you're stuck on the highway. Otherwise, they will challenge you at every level. If you cave once, they know they may have a chance if they fight you. If you fight them unwavering and they always lose, then eventually they won't fight. We're at the stage that if he tell us "no" to things that he has to do, then we put him in "time-out" immediately. This strategy is what the behaviorists call "behavior extinction." You give them the same, consistent consequence for a behavior you wish to extinguish from their arsenal. It takes a lot of self-control, patience and vodka to get there, but it will happen eventually. Now to only to get there before I run out of vodka.
Then, I had to figure out the triggers for this altercation. The question was, "WHY, was he fighting the underwear so much?" Did the seams bother him? Did the tag rub his back, just a little, when he leaned to the left? Did he prefer jockeys to boxer briefs? There were so many possibilities, but when he is screaming and being uncooperative, there are no answers to be found.
And if you think that was my only problem that morning, think again. #1 is very sensitive to other kids crying. When he saw #3 protesting and mom and dad ganging up on him, he jumped in to support his brother. "He doesn't want to wear it," he cried in #3's defense. We then had to explain that all people wear underwear to school. It sounded reasonable to him, so he suggested to #3, that he wear underwear. But, once #3 started screaming, #1 short-circuited and tried to tackle #2 who was sitting calmly reading an atlas. To avoid absolute mayhem, I grabbed #1 to remove him from the room, which is harder now since he is 4'10 and 86 pounds. Husband was getting #3 under-panted and while all that was going on, we were both praising #2 for not feeding into the craziness that surrounded him.
The problem with #1 is that once he is sucked into the vortex, it is very hard to get him out. He is usually agitated long after the altercation is over. And, like a bug to a light, he keeps coming back to the drama. No matter how you try to remove him from a situation, he will find his way back, just because he can't transition when he is on the crazy train.
So, Husband got #3 under-panted, and I was helping #1 brush his teeth and then #2 came in to inform me that #3 had removed his underwear again and was trying to be commando incognito . Time out again. Logic was failing, time out was not altering his state of mind, so then I had to pull out the big guns, "if I hear you have taken off your underwear at school, I will take your Star Wars game and put it in the attic. Do you understand?" He stopped screaming, he nodded and I held him and squeezed him to help him decompress.
I had used his currency. I figured out what it took to get the behavior I needed from him and we got there. We turned our focus to the bird who had build a nest and laid her eggs in our hanging basket on our porch, and then they all went off to school.
Now I know why Vodka is often paired with Orange Juice.