Those of you who've talked to me recently have likely noticed that I've been feeling a bit out-matched by Luke. He is so stubborn, wants to do everything himself, feels that screaming and yelling are always appropriate, and sometimes throwing himself down on the ground is necessary too. I honestly do appreciate his driven, self-sufficient nature... just not when I'm trying to buckle him into his car seat, get in and out of somewhere quickly, or safely get across a busy parking lot.
From the moment he wakes up, he's doing everything for himself. If I turn on the light, he is immediately reduced to tears (he wanted to do it!). For breakfast, he will get everything out himself and prepare it - thank you very much! Seriously - he gets the pancakes out of the freezer, decides how many he wants, gets a plate, and then asks me to lift him up so he can put them in the microwave. He opens the door himself, pushes the buttons, watches as they cook, gets the syrup out, helps pour the syrup, helps cut, etc. I have to constantly remind myself that this is a good thing, as he will be able to do so much for himself before I know it!
I mentioned that taking him places is a challenge. At church this past Sunday, there were two noticeable outbursts in a matter of ten minutes. We were all happily playing and chatting with friends outside the preschool classrooms when Luke spotted the opened doors with their door stops. He wanted the doors closed, so he yanked the stop out (we were 10 feet away yelling for him to stop). Zach saw this happening, so he caught the door before it slammed on someone. A fight ensued - one kid wanting the door opened, the other wanting it closed. This is a VERY high-traffic area, so there's no doubt that everyone else wanted it open and for my kids to step away. Not happening. Luke threw himself onto the ground in a full-blown fit. Other parents and children carefully walked around him, while I scooped my child up off the floor, explained (again) that the doors must remain open and that he was headed to time-out for disobeying and for throwing the fit. He sat in time-out and cried loudly, causing quite a scene. A few minutes later, it was time for me to go teach Sunday school. Bryan and the boys headed out to the van -- only Luke wanted to go out the front doors and we were parked in back! He took off running at full speed, sending Bryan and Zach chasing after him into the busy front doors of the church. (I'm talking 1,000+ people coming into the building!) He threw himself down onto the ground again. Bryan scooped him up and carried him through the lobby throwing a tantrum. Once in the van, he refused to get buckled into his car seat. By refused, I mean his body goes stiff, he hits, he kicks, he screams -- and the parent appears to be abusing the child! This is always a nuisance. Bryan ended up sitting in the van for quite some time just waiting for him to calm down. This is when we say Luke is "holding the family hostage" with his tantrums.
I have tried to take a slightly different approach this week... I'm spending more one-on-one time with each boy, and spending more quiet time with the two of them - reading, coloring, snuggling in bed, playing a game, something like that... If nothing else, this helps me to remain less frazzled when the fits do come. But, honestly, I think it helps the kids to be less frazzled too. I am also trying to be consistent in how I respond to Luke's fits. If he wants to throw a fit, he must do so where we cannot hear him. He's allowed to rejoin us when his fit is over. This obviously doesn't solve the car seat drama or take care of busy parking lots, but hopefully we can discipline the fits at home consistently enough that it will reduce the in-public or in-the-car fits.
Another thing that I have found helpful is taking the time to notice and praise Luke for all the amazing things he does. When I don't do that, I find that I'm spending the entire day butting heads with him. And Luke is amazing... He is very sweet - out of the blue he will come up to his brother and say, "I love you, Zach." He is hysterically funny - he loves knock-knock jokes and has a huge belly laugh! He loves to help around the house and is very good at it. He has very creative ideas. He loves his dog and actually takes care of him! He is actually saying, "excuse me, Apollo" right now as he tries to get a toy out from under him... Luke is delightful.
Every parent needs to remember to see their children in their entirety and not as just one trait. That can be hard to do when the one (not-so-enjoyable) trait is glaringly obvious, but overcoming the frustration and seeing their entire character drastically changes everything.