I always thought I wouldn’t want to dominate my children… but now with a defiant toddler on my hands I’d love a little control!
The other day it took over an hour to change a nappy and dress my son. I was stumped. I tried every distraction I could think of (some highly creative despite growing frustration), a range of deep commanding voices, giving choices, the usual sticker rewards, voicing my frustration and even giving up… Nothing worked and life was on hold until I could solve it. In the end I think he just got tired of fighting and realised clothes weren’t the devil’s spawn.
It left me full of emotion – anger, frustration, helplessness, confusion to name a few… and of course scared. Yes, you heard me. Scared that I was not in charge and life would be a constant battle that I might lose, and be seen as an ‘irresponsible parent’ with an ‘out of control child’. I started to ask myself if it was this fear that was actually in the way of connecting with my son in that moment, rather than my anger.
Luckily help and reassurance was at hand from a fellow mum who lent me a fantastic book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk . At last, here was an alternative that made sense and was based on respecting my son as a fellow human being (albeit a small one right now!). Relief that perhaps ‘I’ didn’t have to have the answer, that ‘we’ could find one together, and the approach would grow with him.
It’s still not easy (I am only a week and 3chapters in) – I can’t always find the way or the words in the moment, but am able to think more clearly and stay with his feelings rather than get lost in my own agenda. I don’t get scared and angry as quickly, and am able to cope with my own emotions better (well most of the time!). The biggest reward is seeing my son able to be an individual with his own opinions AND stay in relationship with me, rather than feeling he has to choose between the two.
I am under no illusions that he needs to and will continue to test the boundaries, and that I will continue to be challenged by it, however I realise I have control over the way I respond and can choose a path of love, co-operation and clear boundaries, rather than dominance and punishment.