Friday, January 28, 2011

The Battle

I'm reading Your Two-Year-Old by Louise Bates Ames, the author of a great parenting book that I read about this time last year (did you guess it was called Your One-Year-Old?).

I was struck by a particular sentence from the chapter on "Help with Routines".  She writes: "In the (unfortunately quite natural) battle for supremacy between parent and child, children are very quick to spot areas in which parents are vulnerable."  She goes on to suggest a casual attitude towards things like mealtimes, dressing, etc., which I have found to be the only way to get Jude to do anything.

My experience with toddlers in general (and my toddler in particular) is that the child is a keen observer of the parent and other adults around him.  When he is in a particularly compliant mood, this works in our favor as he knows just what to do to make us laugh with him and enjoy his company.  However, when he is in a defiant mood (which is often) the very thought that we might like him to do something like eat a well-balanced meal or start using the toilet virtually guarantees that he will do the exact opposite.

If we can convince him that something is his own idea, he will embrace it enthusiastically.  If we offer a suggestion and act as if we couldn't care less whether he follows through, we are often surprised to turn around five minutes later and find him doing what we wanted.  If we act as if it is important to us, it doesn't happen without negotiations or tantrums, and usually a lot of noise.  It is these "areas of vulnerability" which cause the most stress.

At 9:30 pm, when both kids are sleeping and the house is quiet, it's easy to tell myself to "just be casual" and "don't let him know I care", but how do I remember this tomorrow morning when we're late and Jude is refusing to walk out the front door?  Sometimes we do need our kids to do things.  We don't have the time to allow the toddler to want to eat breakfast or put on his shoes.  Instead, we turn the tables and use the child's vulnerable areas, such as his love of Z-bars or desire to go to the park.  And so the battle for supremacy continues...

1 comment:

Alex, Andrea, Lucia, Magdalena Jones said...

I would love to tell you that at 3 this gets better, but after a monumental melt-down with Lucia last night to get her to bed after we even got her take-out pizza, I can't say that i am too optimistic. However, the "energy drain" trick from the parenting book "Love and Logic" has started to work now that Lucia is 3. I got her to pick up all the ball she tossed out of our ball pit by lying on the ground and convincing her that I couldn't move (energy drain!) until she put them all back in the kiddie pool. Took a long time, though...