When It’s Time for Bootcamp

When It's Time for Bootcamp

Every so often, we’ll notice a particular behavior getting out of control with one (or all) of our girls and declare that it’s time for “bootcamp” — a period of time where we focus on that behavior with quick, clear consequences.

For us, bootcamp isn’t about being harsh (no scream-in-your-face drill sergeants here!), but about being hyper-consistent to break the bad habits that we’ve fallen into. In fact, it often results in less yelling and frustration for all of us since we’re upfront with the girls about the expectations and consistent in enforcing them!

Recently, we realized that it was beyond time for our youngest daughter’s first bootcamp experience.

First, let me back up:

Our sweet girl had a bit of a rough start. Although she was born perfectly healthy and happy, I distinctly remember the day she woke up, at less than a week old, and realized she was no longer in my womb. Needless to say, she was not happy about that.

With mild reflux and fairly severe colic (both of which were definitely made worse by dairy, coffee and coffee) and an easily overstimulated personality, she spent most of her first year unhappy. Truly, while we got some pretty precious giggles out of her at home, most of our extended family had to wait until she was much older to see the parts of her personality we loved.

Things got somewhat better once she weaned, but she still wasn’t sleeping through the night, and at about 18 months old, she began screaming hysterically for no apparent reason. {As a side note, I know for many people this describes their experiences after routine vaccines and a subsequent autism diagnosis, but for us there was no correlation.}

After about a week of screaming and sleepless nights, I began to wonder if her reflux could be acting up again. That night my husband ran down to the local gas station for some Tums, and sure enough, half a Tums settled her right down. We headed to the pediatrician the next day for a new Zantac prescription, where she was also diagnosed with an ear infection, which can be caused by reflux in babies and toddlers.

Thankfully, we noticed an immediate difference in her personality, and we began the process of eliminating dairy and gluten from her diet entirely (after a negative allergy test when she was younger, she was already off “obvious” sources of dairy, but not the hidden dairy found in so many foods). Sure enough, with dairy gone, she began sleeping through the night and her personality blossomed.

Unfortunately, this two-year journey with what we thought was our last baby had left us in a pretty vulnerable position as parents. We had spent so much time coddling her, trying to make her comfortable and trying to figure out what was going on that we hadn’t held her to the same standards of politeness, obedience and behavior that we had our other girls, and she was living up to her nickname, “The Tyrant.”

As we began to think about adding another baby to our family, we realized that it would be even more important to break some of these bad habits she had developed and to start correcting some of our mistakes.

When It's Time for Bootcamp

This time, bootcamp wasn’t as much about her (although it definitely wasn’t a pleasant experience from her perspective as we started enforcing rules that we had been ignoring), as it was about retraining ourselves to be consistent with her. This was especially difficult in the face of her extremely strong personality given that she’d pretty much gotten her way for three years, and there were plenty of times when it would have been so much easier to just give in!

Instead, we committed to enforcing the rules — teaching her to come when called, waiting for her to nicely ask for something before doing it and reminding her to say thank you, moving her to her crib when she threw temper tantrums.

It’s been about six months since we came to this realization and really started changing our approach with her, and while it has been hard at times, I am in awe of the sweet (still strong willed) little girl who is emerging. She is demanding things less and less, instead asking us nicely for things with “please” and “thank you”, and I think it’s safe to say that the issues we do have with her are typical of three-year-olds and not evidence of her lack of discipline.

I’m sure there will be times when we have to revisit bootcamp with her and her sisters, but for now I think it’s safe to say we’ve graduated!

Do you use the bootcamp approach to discipline issues in your home?

Mandi Ehman is the blogger behind Life Your Way. She and her husband have four beautiful girls plus one baby boy, and together they live, work and homeschool on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia. Mandi loves coffee, chocolate, easy meals, beautiful things and minimalist spaces.