He's always dirty. He's always working. He's obsessed with trucks and likes to carry a tape measure in his pocket. But, underneath the tough boy facade, Finnan is more sensitive than even I knew. I had been having a hard time with Finnan for a couple of weeks. Even after he recovered from his roseola, he was very tantrum-prone and very defiant. It was impossible to have a meal, to put him down for a nap or for the night, or drop him off at Gabriela's. I was very frustrated. Neither Finnan or I were acting like ourselves anymore.
Everything became clearer a week ago. After I admittedly over-reacted to Finnan sitting on a hanging basket, Atticus decided to take a different approach. He picked Finnan up and started talking to him about what a good boy he was. Then, he asked him, "Who is my good boy?" He replied in a hushed tone, "Jude." Heartbreaking. Finnan is an incredibly independent toddler and Jude is very attached to me. I clearly was not giving Finnan the attention he needed. After this episode, we have tried to steer clear of time-outs (not that we have given them up), but tried to focus more on positive reinforcement. In addition to praising him when he has done something well (which we have always done), we are going out of our way to tell him what a good boy he is and how proud of him we are. I am trying to put Jude down more and focus on him when he needs me, even if that means listening to Jude cry for a bit. The best example of this working has been his behavior at bedtime. For a few nights, he would not go to bed. He was clinging to my neck and when I would finally pry him loose (it was after 9:00 for goodness sakes!) he would scream and pound at the door. (Amazingly, Jude has learned to sleep through this.) Well, instead of reading endless books and singing endless songs, we have started talking about how proud of him we are that he can go to bed without crying. "You are such a good boy! You can go to bed by yourself! I am so proud of you that you can go to bed by yourself!" Etc. etc. With this reinforcement he has opened his bedroom door and walked into bed by himself the past three nights. His tantrums and their intensity have also decreased.
The positive reinforcement seems to also be chipping away at his need to be fed by me. Finnan was feeding himself well before Jude was born and feeds himself when at Gabriela's, but at home, especially in the last couple of months, he refuses to eat without help. He will whine, "It's too heavy" incessantly and work himself up into a tantrum. To avoid this, I was just feeding him. While it seemed to prevent most conflicts at the table, it did not stop him from being upset if I was feeding Jude at the time and not him. I would have to feed them simultaneously. As a result, I have gotten more coordinated with my left hand and have probably lost a few more pounds myself. But, while food is often still too heavy for him, I do see him feeding himself unprompted more!