Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We've Got Spirit, Yes We Do

About a year and a half ago, I took one of my Libraries' regular donors to lunch in an effort to get to know her better and to find out why she gives. It's part of my job.

We hit it off and had a great conversation. She's much older than I, has grandkids in fact, but because we are mothers we could still find plenty of common ground. She is somewhat estranged from her daughter because of their rocky relationship during her daughter's teenage years. Her daughter was very headstrong, knew what she wanted, and didn't see why she had to bend to the will of her parents.

At the time, Punkin was only about 2 years old. And while I already called her "my spirited child," she was pretty much a normal 2 year old. There were tantrums, but they weren't anything out of the ordinary. I confessed to her that I have often hoped that my daughter will be spirited, strong-willed. In my mind I'm picturing a daughter who goes after what she wants and isn't afraid to try new things. A daughter who puts her friends before her boyfriends and herself above all else.

"Woo, be careful what you wish for," my lunch companion laughed. I laughed with her.

I'm not laughing now. Seriously, y'all. I think she might have been a genie of some sort and granted my wish. A spirited daughter? I've got it in spades!

My mother likes to say that I came into the world with my mind made up on every subject and I think this is one of my (few) attributes that Punkin received in her genetic code.

Y'all, she wears me out. She has to be in control of every situation. If you tell her to brush her teeth, she just has to do this one thing (whatever it may be) first. Or if you tell her to get dressed, it's "But I need to give you a hug first." Come here? "But I need to...whatever." It's always something and it's maddening. It's like SHE has to prove that she's the boss of her and she will do what I ask, but only on HER terms.

And frankly, I don't know what to do. Do I force her to bend to my will and do what I say when I say it? Or do I lighten up? I've tried giving her control in other areas and it doesn't seem to help.

Any suggestsion? Or does anybody know the name of a reliable gypsy who can reverse this curse?


AndreAnna said...

Choices. Learn to form your commands/requests in the form of questions in which she feels she has the choice - thereby making her FEEL like she has the control of the situation, which is really all she wants.

Instead of telling her to get ready for bed, ask her "Do you want to brush you teeth first or go get your pajamas on first?"

Or if you're trying to get out the door, ask her "Would you rather put your coat on first? or your shoes?"

And if she gives you an answer that wasn't one of the questions, repeat them. Tell her she has two options. SHE can choose but those are her ONLY options.

I have to do this with C or we'll never get our of the house or anything done, EVER. Letting her feel like she has the power makes life a LOT easier.

Robyn said...

I'm going to follow AA's suggestions because we are going through the EXACT same thing with Bear (he's 3 1/2). Even if it's something he would want to do, he has to find something else to do first.


jodifur said...

Have you read raising your spirited child? I highly recommend the book.

The Thrailkills said...

After six months of therapy for a very similar (and many other issues) - I can say that I was grateful to hear our therapist say that is okay to make Xman do what I want him to do when I want him to do it. Providing him with options just makes him want to create a third. For example, in the do you want to put on your pjs first or brush your teeth - I can swear to you that he will want to finish building the lego house and there will be massive tantrums anyway. No amount of explaining (and talking to him only makes things worse) will make him choose between one or the other.

It is exhausting! We were told to not give him options about stuff he has to do. Phrase things as simple as possible but as a firm command. "Xman go put your pjs on."

Then come consequences - it's inevitable.

I think it is unrealistic to try to trick him into thinking he is in control. He's not. I am. I don't want our life run by our five year old.

We do give him plenty of choices - but only on things that don't matter if he doesn't choose. Like - do you want a popsicle or an ice cream sandwich? If he chooses, great. If not, great. Less sugar:).

I'm sure I sound terribly cruel - but I have read every book. Tried every strategy. I want him to be strong and independent - but I also want to respect adults, follow directions and be a pleasure to be around. I have learned in order for him to be those three things - I have to create firm boundaries - and maintain them. For him and me.

Kathy said...

It is tough, but sometimes you just have to make them do what you want / need them to do. I find that as my son gets older if I tell him I need him to do something he is much better than if I just tell him to do it. I also tell him only one thing at a time (sometime two) if I do more than that it is just too overwhelming for him. And, there are of course consequences when he doesn't do what he is told to do. Usually the punishment is losing his snuggle time before bed which stinks because it punishes me too, but that is the only thing that makes an impression.

Aunt Crazy said...

Here from Jodifur's blog. I have a 17 yr old boy and a 13 yr old daughter. Both are strong and independent and hard headed and both must have the last word. We have raised them to think for themselves and to stand up for themselves and while it makes them harder to parent and the school hates us, to us, it's worth it. We will never have to worry that they lack the self esteem needed to stand up for themselves or that someone will take advantage of them carelessly.

Leslie said...

I sometimes use a timer. I'll set it for 5 minutes before we need to do something (like take a bath, etc.) and I let JP know that when the timer goes off, he has to stop whatever he's doing. Most of the time it works quite well and has cut down on tantrums.

Katie said...

Huh. Bee (my 4 year old) is EXACTLY this way and I didn't realize it was her wanting to be in control. (Which makes sense - I can sort of be a control nut when I want to be.) I just let her do her thing mostly. When I don't have time or I mean business, I tell her we don't have time for her to do xyz this time. Usually she listens. Sometimes I have to take away a privilege. (And another, and another...until she listens.)

When I can, I go the AndreAnna route and offer choices. It works wonders...unless Bee is tired. And those nights I try to just count to myself because NOTHING will least not until Bee grows out of this stage. Choosing battles. Good advice, but easier said that done.