Warning: My ONLY credential for writing this blog and offering unsolicited advice is that I’m a parent. Which is kind of weak.
My teeny, tiny, just-born, infant of a son is turning 4-years-old in 2 weeks.
Four. Years. Old.
I’ve spent the past 4 months rehabbing a broken femur. Every time someone sees me after a few weeks they comment, “Wow! You’re walking a lot better!” Of course, I’m the one feeling the pain and the challenges everyday, but someone else sees me and they are impressed. They can’t believe the improvement. I don’t see it the way they do unless I look back at a video of myself from a month ago can I recognize, Hey! I actually can walk in a more straight line!
And it’s the same with my almost-four-year-old.
Abe has taken to negotiating. He is positive that if he just negotiates enough and in the right way that he will get what he wants. If he whines enough, asks enough times, throws a big enough tantrum, he will prevail. And because I am with him so much, I forget/can’t-see that he has had four years to develop a brain big enough, strong enough to use manipulation and other techniques to get what he wants. I still look at him as though he is a baby who needs his mama to do things for him.
In short? I’ve noticed I’m starting to become what I hate most in the world: a pushover.
I’ve been had.
Add to this the fact that his dad and I got divorced and the guilt is tremendous. He has had so little control over his own little circumstances that I feel like any and every time I have the chance to give him some choice in his own life, I should do it. Even though it passes ZERO Dateline tests and Dr. Phil would be shaking his head at me, I still use this outdated logic without even realizing I’m doing it.
It’s time to stop the madness.
So I’ve come up with some new rules for myself and I’m sharing them with you:
1. Ask yourself if you would negotiate this with another adult. If your spouse or significant other laid down on the floor at the grocery store over a missed opportunity at applesauce, would you stop and negotiate, ultimately offering the same applesauce he or she wants if he or she will just get up off the floor?!
No. You would walk away and possibly call a therapist.
I’m not saying all children should act like adults, but they won’t know how to eventually act like adults if we don’t hold them to the same standard.
2. Never give in. Not the first time, not the second time, not the third time… The second you give in, it connects a little synapse in the brain of an almost-four-year-old that later indicates to him or her that there is a distinct possibility that moaning as if near death will result in a chocolate cereal bar. (This is a scientifically proven FACT.) Give in once and you will spend weeks disconnecting and reconnecting that synapse.
3. Show no emotion. By creating an emotionally charged situation with your child, you then shift the focus from, “No, you cannot eat a penny you found on the ground,” to, “I am angry and we are going to talk about how angry I am because I had a difficult childhood…” By reacting without the feeling-words, you teach your child the topic really is just the topic, and then we’re all going to move on.
4. You don’t HAVE to give your kid choices all the time. It’s fine to ask every once in a while what your child wants for dinner or if he/she’d prefer blue socks or white socks. But offering choices all the time gives your kid waaaaaay to much power. Why do we want our children to be powerless? Because that’s the real world. I don’t get to choose whether or not I get a new pair of jeans versus pay my electric bill. I don’t get to choose the kind of carpeting in my rental house. I don’t even get to choose whether or not I take a shower (well, I guess I could choose not to, but then there’s the whole societal-shunning thing and losing friends…). Making the right choices for my child is what will help him make his own right choices as he grows up and is given more responsibility.
5. Know what you’re going to do when you get to “3.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve counted all the way to “3” with a stern face and then watched as my son challenged me, almost with a hand on his hip and a smirk on his face, waiting for me to melt into a puddle of sobs and admit, “I have no idea what to do now that I’ve counted to 3”!
Have a plan.
Time out, losing a privilege (that you’ve predetermined), being sent to bed..if you can consistently follow your own plan once you get to 3, your kid will start taking the whole counting thing seriously. (I don’t think my mom ever got past 2, and in hindsight I seriously think she was terrified of what would happen if she did…)
It’s weird how I can be SO ready for the bedtime hour in my house and yet when my son wakes up, I am completely in love with him all over again and missed him so much. Parenting is a schizophrenic job, isn’t it? (BTW: If you have any parenting advice for me, PLEASE feel free to leave it in the comments because I have absolutely no idea if any of this will actually work. If you don’t hear anything from you then you can assume Abe won.)