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THE MAIN EVENT
Fighting with my daughter seems to be becoming an integral part of our lives. :( We just butt heads constantly. I know that I have control issues, but I also find the stubbornness and tenacity of my daughter completely over-the-top. She finds it necessary to fight EVERY request, every order, everything. I'm so tired of it I could scream. Last night was horrible and this morning wasn't much better. After doing a LOT of thinking about it, trying to figure out what to do to change my attitude and my reactions, which, let me tell ya, ain't easy, I had a sudden flash of insight.

Karin wasn't allowed a bedtime story last night because she gave us such a fight going through the bedtime routine, and then she wouldn't stay put and she wouldn't lie down and she wouldn't go to sleep, so Anders and I were taking turns sitting with her, and at one point, she flipped over and glared at me and said "Du bestämmer inte över mig, mamma.*" Which means, roughly, you ain't the boss of me, mama.

"Yes," I shot back, "I am. Now lie down and go to sleep." But you know what? I'm NOT the boss of her. She's the boss of her. She's the one who decides whether or not she's going to accept or reject the things her parents require and expect of her. Regardless of the fact that she's causing grey hairs to literally SPROUT LIKE GRASS on my head.

People tell me all the time that it's great to have a child that knows what she wants and is so independent and sure of herself, and it's true, and I AM glad of it. But sometimes I just wish she'd just wear what I put out, and do what's she's asked and go to bed without an argument, and not take everything I say as a chance to do the opposite just for the joy of perversity. And make no mistake, there is JOY in her perversity. She gets something out of being contrary or she wouldn't do it.

So, now it's a matter of walking the line between allowing your children to do whatever the hell they want to and having social services called down on your ass for neglect. Muttering that mantra choose your battles is helpful but what about when all the battles are over my authority as a parent? I would also be doing my child a dis-service if I allow her to believe that all of her behavior is appropriate or allowable.

I firmly believe that my children need to be fed, bathed (reasonably often) and given a good night's sleep so that they can function on a daily basis. These aren't points I'm willing to budge much on. I can allow Karin to be her own boss in that she can decide whether or not she's going to come along willingly, but she needs to learn that her actions have consequences. It's one thing to allow kids to get away with things once in awhile, it's another to completely lose all track of what my JOB as a parent is: namely to teach my child how to navigate the world within a realistic framework. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, where are you when I need you?!

Really Good Writing Out There Right Now: This is Your Boyfriend from One Good Thing

*literally: You don't decide over me
 busy
mood: busy
music: Barbra Streisand—Lullaby For Myself


Comments

Having raised an incredibly independent, headstrong, stubborn, knows-what-she-wants child, I am THERE when you talk about the battles. I, too, had a wonderful relationship with my mother. I, too, found living with my father nigh onto impossible. I've often thought that because I missed those mother-daughter tensions growing up, I was less prepared for them when they came along.

I forget Karin's age, please remind me, okay? I think it probably does matter.

We (JF and I and my two children) had star charts, we had chores charts, we had a cool bean system where the kids got beans in a bowl when they did something, anything, right, and then beans subtracted when they didn't obey or comply or when they neglected what they were supposed to do. Beans could be redeemed for television or video game time or treats at the toy store or grocery store. This system can work very well, though I suggest coupling it with two other ideas.

One comes from Stephen Covey, the Seven Habits man. "Seek first to understand, before you seek to be understood."

This little piece of advice worked miracles for my relationship with Natasha. Whenever I sensed we were heading into one of those pitched power struggles, I would just stop, and listen very actively and intensely to what she was saying about her feelings, her perceptions, her opinions. I didn't necessarily change the rule or the obligation, but I did manage to convey the idea that she was HEARD, SEEN, taken into account.

The other approach was to recognize that Natasha's obstinance had something to do with her own self-image. She felt threatened, on some level, and reacted by drawing lines in the sand and refusing to budge. So, from that insight, I embarked on a campaign of praise and approbation. I looked for things to find right with her. I applauded every good decision, every smart move, every impulse to kindly action, to introspection, to helpfulness. I applauded her problem solving, her sense of humor, her clothes and hair. I didn't fake any admiration--her acute little bullshit dectector was fully functional and my efforts would have badly backfired if I hadn't been utterly sincere in my praise. I hugged more often. I told her how much I loved her.

I won't say that these two approaches eliminated the battles. But they did, I am sure, pave the way for an adult relationship that is candid and real and alive and caring. What really matters, in the end, is not whether she undermines your authority today or you succeed in imposing rules that seem sensible to you. What matters, finally, is the love relationship you're building now for the future.

From the perpective of the kid, I can say that your method sounds remarkably what my mother did when I was a kid. The sincere praise, love and hugs always reinforced the fact that she cared, and I'm fairly certain that made a big difference in my behaviour.

I recall a time when I was probably being the worst little troll of all...:

I was supposed to go stay with my Dad for a week. (I was about 6 or 7, I guess.) And Mom had said if I got five marks of really bad behaviour on the calendar, I couldn't go. Now somewhere deep down inside, I think I was dreading the whole idea, and as soon as I had my five marks, and realized I didn't have to go, I was totally well-behaved again. Though this was all semi-subconscious.

Is it possible that Karin has something that she's _hoping_ you won't let her do by getting you to get mad at her and say she can't do it?

If not, please ignore me. :)

What a story about your five marks! Thanks for sharing that with me. I'm not sure what it is about bedtime, except that it mostly seems like she 1) doesn't want to miss anything and 2) doesn't want to STOP and take the necessary break that sleep means.

Thank you so much for all your great advice and excellent ideas. I really appreciate it. Karin is nearly 5, but it seems like we've been struggling together since she was born. :( The bean idea sounds like a workable one for us, for sure. We aren't quite at the chores list time yet, but it's also coming up quickly. I have to learn how to hug more when I'm mad instead of withdrawing. I feel like I have found a wonderful counselor :)

October 2019
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