When I wrote the post about taking away Xander’s pacifiers, I was somewhat surprised by the responses I got. In a good way, but also in a thought provoking way. I got a lot of comments here and on FB and Twitter along the lines of “good for you for knowing when to relent.” And….yeah. YEAH.
It got me thinking.
There’s this idea in parenting that you have to stay strong. Stick to your guns. Don’t back down.
Yes. And no.
I mean, I see where the idea comes from. You can’t very well tell your two year old that he must eat his dinner before giving him a cookie and then giving him a cookie when he throws his plate to the floor with a devilish smirk (I HATE SMIRKING).
But why can’t you amend your previous stance to “if you take two bites of this, and two bites of that, then you can have your cookie” and show him that you recognize his effort?
Like many parenting idea(l)s, I took this one way too seriously. I figured the experts knew. I mean, they were DOCTORS (mostly). So.
We recently had parent conferences with Xander’s preschool teachers. I know, it seems somewhat silly to have conferences for three year olds (he is very adept at smearing paint on paper with his fingers!), but still. Two things that came up, as they did last year at a different school with different teachers, are that Xander is very smart, and he’s very sensitive.
(I know, I KNOW, that that may sound like a brag, but it’s not, I swear. A lot of his smarts comes from us letting him play reading apps on the iPad during quiet time, so it’s not like I’m taking credit for that, or anything.)
And being smart or sensitive or both is not BAD. I think it’s good! I love that my boy is empathetic, as much as a three year old can be, that he cares about people’s feelings. But these traits also mean that he can be….manipulative. He likes to test and see what he can get us to do for him, what techniques work, how much whining until we cave, etc. Not in a sociopath sort of way, but just…he’s three, you know? They already test boundaries and push buttons. Xander just seems to realize a bit more of what those buttons can end up doing.
I was pondering aloud (or, rather, quietly but with my fingers on Twitter) whether or not I was being too inconsistent with Xander. I constantly go back and forth on timeouts, and whether they “work,” and when to use them, blah blah blah …boringmommyblogcakes. My old boss and good friend (and mother of two grown up, well adjusted boys) told me that it doesn’t really matter, in the end, what the consequence itself is, just as long as he knows that certain behaviors are not acceptable. Sometimes he may get a timeout for being sassy (like if he’s already been warned, or I’m immersed in something and can’t take the time to sit down and talk to him, or I’m just fed up), and sometimes I may just remind him that I won’t listen to words or voices that aren’t nice.
Sometimes for Xander a timeout is the worst thing I can do. He flips his lid and it takes so long to calm down that the initial transgression is lost amid his panic. Other times he needs to get it out and find his own way.
It’s not easy to know which one is right. I’ve gotten it “wrong” many times. But I’m trying. I’m learning.
It’s made doubly hard because there are opinions everywhere. Whether you seek them out or not, someone has an opinion on how you parent your child. And I’m all too aware that people might think I’m being too easy on him. Too soft. That he won’t learn if I don’t show him who’s boss.
And, sadly, I’ve given in to that at times. I’ve ignored by gut because I thought my gut was wrong. Relenting is not always a sign of weakness. With Xander, I’ve seen him spiral into an honest to god panic attack over discipline and no. Just no. That’s not ok. He’s a child, he is learning his way and his place in the world and he needs to know that John and I are in his corner. We are his safe people. If I let him “get away” with something, it’s not because I’m letting him win, it’s because I know how hard it is for him, and how hard he is trying. I know that that extra dose of sensitivity he has makes him terrified that, in some way, John or I won’t like him.
So sometimes he gets the cookie and the peas remain untouched.
We’ve been doing the Advent Activity Calendar. Somedays it goes great. Somedays I make the executive decision not to do our “assigned” activity because it’s not worth it. If Xander is over tired, or being naughty, or overstimulated, or just not interested….it’s not worth it.
I’m learning to be flexible. To let go of the things I can’t control.
And with kids, the list of things outside of my control is so long I can’t even tell you.
I had thought that it might make me feel bad if I didn’t make it through everything on my list. That I should find a way to cherish this magical holiday time with my children come hell or high water.
But, come on. Sometimes glue and glitter is just one more mess to clean up and your preschooler would be happier watching Wonderpets with some graham crackers.
This post is rather disjointed. I’ve gone over it three times and, well, I guess that’s just the way it is. Parenting is disjointed, right? I guess I just wanted to say that…it’s not a bad thing to change your mind. It’s not a bad thing for me to change my mind. I don’t know why that idea exists, but I think or kids deserve more credit than that. And so do we.