Let your love shine through, no matter what the circumstances! When you bring a little snuggle bunny home, it’s not hard to love unconditionally. It has to be unconditional because your baby has nothing to offer except spit up and terribly malodorous diapers. Luckily, loving them up does not require a good mood at 3 a.m., in those months before they sleep through the night.
When little ones get mobile, especially once walking is sure-footed and they are spurred on by curiosity in addition to needing to test limits, you might well feel as though your script has been flipped by someone who has only made two or three trips around the sun. How did that happen?
It may feel as though you’re on the opposing side to your young one, but now I refer back to the need to avoid power struggles. (See “Parent is Also a Verb” PAV 11/21/21) If asked, you would probably answer that, of course, you want your child to grow up to be determined, self-confident, meeting life’s challenges knowing they’re capable and they’ve got someone in their corner, someone who always wants what’s best for them. Well, this picture begins to develop very early and continues to come into focus for the next couple of decades. One of the parent’s goals is a switch from disciplinarian to advisor, when asked, in the “child’s” early 20’s.
The way to avert face-offs with your toddler, preschooler, school-aged child, preteen, and teenager is to present choices. They won’t need to take power if they see that they have some. In the beginning, options should be limited; they should always be age appropriate. Instead of asking your preschooler what they want to eat, open-ended, tell them their choices are this or that. You don’t want to be a short order cook but, more importantly, giving them no limit of choice may be overwhelming, which they’re not developmentally able to recognize or communicate. This might lead to a kid who “only eats ___” or is otherwise a picky eater. New foods need more than a couple tries. It can take up to 15 times introducing something before a child likes it.
Food choice is just one illustration. Everyone has to offer choices with which they are comfortable. My sons are 19 months apart. My husband was self-employed in those early years, working from 6:30 in the morning to about 6:30 in the evening, six days a week. I did quite a few “snacky” dinners when it was just the boys and I. These consisted of something like cheese cubes or slices, crackers, carrots, and grapes or another fruit. I frequently chose not to wrangle two little boys on my own at the dinner table.
Clothing is an easy area for choices. You control what eventually ends up in your kids’ closets and drawers as long as you hold the funds and then you can trust them to choose what they want to wear on a daily basis, special events excluded. When my oldest son was potty-training the summer before he turned three, he took to wearing a pull-up on his head. As a stay-at-home mom of a two-year-old and a one-year-old, I couldn’t have cared less. When he wore a baseball cap on top though, it looked like he had a bandaged head. It was quite appropriate headwear when we celebrated one week dry with a ‘potty party’ at a fast food play area! To each family their own.
Yes, providing appropriate choices at each age and stage is loving your child. Google behavioral, cognitive, and emotional child development for the resource(s) that appeal to you. Now, maybe your parents just told you what to do, when to do it, and didn’t concern themselves at all with what you felt like. How was that for you? On the other end, we definitely do not want our child to sit in the family driver’s seat.
Did I ever find myself in the midst of a power struggle? With two little sons ganging up against me? You bet I did. More about those as well as the importance of consistent expectations and reasonable, logical consequences in a future post.
What has been an effective parenting tool or style for you? Will you try to be a parent like yours or something different, and why? What have you found to be most challenging in your parenting efforts?
Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.