If you had an eleven-foot-tall, 520-pound boss with whom you were only marginally able to communicate, who corrected you 24 hours a day and decided when you slept and what you ate, do you think you might do a lot of crying? I'd probably scream and fling myself to the floor when she offered me a taste of stir fry, especially if stir fry looked like a giant bowl of trees covered in poop water. This is what being a toddler is like.
I noticed I was doing a lot of correcting with my three-year-old. Strong arming. You eat THIS youdamnit and then STAY IN BED. She would freak out and we all blamed the terrible everythings. And then I recently had an epiphany: She's only freaking out and throwing tantrums because she's afraid I'm going to make her do something. So what if I stopped? Most things are not worth a fight and I want her to feel in control about some of her choices.
What's the big deal if she lives on a menu of three items and a multi-vitamin? Is 9:00 really such an unreasonable bed time? If she goes outside and gets cold, won't she eventually realize she needs a coat? Why get upset - I'm a lazy lady. I decided to let reality do the work of most of my parenting.
Here is how the conversation went when I started being more gentle a.k.a lazy a.k.a not caring what she eats for dinner . . .
Me: Would you like some stir fry?
Bee: NooOOoOooO!!! Ahhhh!!!! [runs away]
Me: It's okay, no big deal. I was just offering. The polite thing for you to say is, "no thank you!"
Now she says "no thank you, I want something else" and that's when she gets her Bee-approved dinner. If she says she doesn't want that, I say "that's okay! It'll be here waiting for you when you're hungry! You don't have to eat now".
She's never really had bad food anyway. Her idea of a happy meal is a peanut butter sandwich, a banana and greek yogurt. In my infinite evil wisdom, I made sure she never learned white bread exists and she thinks cookies only materialize on holidays. She'll find out about my stash of Corn Nuts and Thin Mints when she's tall enough to see the top shelf and by then, I'm sure we'll have a new set of problems.
So my three-year-old decides her own dinner. Don't I decide mine? I'm a forceful person and my instinct to "mom handle" my kid was just causing more rebellion. That scares me. I'm big now, but what happens when I shrink from eleven feet tall to equal height with her? What happens when she has car keys of her own and we never learned to communicate? I can't have that. She's a person and she can't be controlled down to every bite she takes. Since this revelation, peace has returned to our house to a reasonable degree.
To quell her forcefulness about other topics, like not wanting to come or go, I make sure she knows that I understand what she's saying. If I'm like, "it's time to go!" and she's like, "I want to stay here!" I say, "oh, you want to stay here. So do I, I like it here. But sissy and I are going because our appointment is soon, so if you want to be with us, we'll be by the door". 100% of the time she comes to the door.
I'm too lazy for parenting books, but I remember someone told me a good rule of arguing is to repeat back what the other person says in your own words so they feel heard. Imagine if you were in a foreign place and had to communicate everything in a series of grunts and cries. Even after you mastered a few key phrases of the language, you're bound to TALK! REALLY! LOUDLY! when you try to communicate more important things like, "I'd rather not leave all the fun stuff that's important to me in order to venture out in the cold, to an unknown destination, that might include me getting shots". Why not just stomp around and cling to your favorite Dora book?
So repeat what the kid says. This involves me saying bizarre things like, "no boots! Bee wants purple sparkle shoes!" and "Bee doesn't want her hair brushed!" followed by, "would you like to keep your hair long and let mommy brush it, or should we get a short hair style for you?" So far, she's always picked brushing and if she ever picks a pixie, pixie it will be.
I'm no parenting expert. My kid (accidentally!) saw a flash of Sasha Baron Cohen's swinging penis on a television screen the size of a wall. I have no plans to give my one-year-old a spoon, I shut both of them up with iPads when I want to sleep an extra 30 minutes and there are three loads of laundry sitting in my dryer. My point isn't to one-up other moms, just to share what's working. Next week when it all falls apart, I'll be sure to let you know. But for now? Peace is feeling pretty sweet in this home!
I was too lazy to pull a picture off my memory card, so here's a vintage maternity photo from when I was pregnant with Bee circa 2008.