It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Interview Meme

I’m sure many of you have seen the meme which involves interview questions. A blogger picks someone to interview, sends them five questions, and then the person interviewed is to do the same. I’ve had opportunity to do this meme before, but didn’t, because I’m too lazy busy* to think up five questions for five people.

However, when Stephen asked if he could interview me, with no obligation to continue the meme, I agreed, particularly once I saw his questions. He’s a smart man, my Stephen: these are fascinating questions, and will be fun to answer!

They are also not simple questions. There is no way I can do full justice to all five in one post – unless you all are willing to read a small book masquerading as a post. So, what I’m going to do is answer one each Saturday for the next five weeks. I’ll tackle the first question on June 9.

Curious? Here are the questions:

1. Describe a parenting goal that ought to be universal. No matter what part of the world you live in, regardless of your worldview or socio-economic status, this is a goal that all parents share in common — though they may never have thought about it.

2. Allow me to introduce this question with an anecdote. I had the privilege of watching you homeschool your children. I had no biases about homeschooling, pro or con, but I was amazed by the method you used. After a month or two had passed, I asked, “But when do you school them?” I was expecting formal instruction of some kind and it wasn’t happening — not that I ever saw. But your method (what method?!) worked: when your children entered the school system in grade four or five, they were equal to or ahead of their peers academically.

The answer to my amazement is found in your philosophy of care. It states, “Every interaction is a learning opportunity.” I know from observing you how subtle the principle is in practice! Please explain so that others can apply it.

3. Most people who read your blog end up, like me, very impressed by your parenting (caregiving) skills. But ‘fess up, it ain’t all Mary Poppins! Share one of your mistakes with us! When you first started parenting, what were you doing that causes the more experienced, wiser version of MaryP to shake her head disapprovingly and mutter “tsk tsk”?

4. What does our society do well with respect to parenting? What does it do poorly? Phrased another way, which societal messages would parents do well to absorb, and which ones should they resist?

5. Some people say that people should have to obtain a License To Parent before they are allowed to bring a child into the world. The implication is, some kind accreditation is necessary to do the job right. You’ve worked with lots of untrained mommies and daddies. Are children at risk or otherwise held back by parental ignorance?

Good questions, huh? Tune in next Saturday, when I outline my thoughts on question one: a parenting goal that ought to be universal. Hmmm….
.
.
.
.

*Because, as you all know by now, I am the Queen of Busy. Bwah-ha.

June 4, 2007 Posted by | controversy, memes and quizzes, parenting | 9 Comments

Interview Question Number 4: Societal Parenting Messages, Good and Bad

Question 4 in the Interview Meme, which follows questions 1, 2, and 3!

4. What does our society do well with respect to parenting? What does it do poorly? Phrased another way, which societal messages would parents do well to absorb, and which ones should they resist?

For me, the critical message to reject is the notion that children are fragile, that any parenting action could scar your child for life, that you, the parent, are 100% culpable for any negative emotional or relational circumstance your child may experience, either now or in his/her adulthood.

We put way, way, waaaaay too much burden upon ourselves by accepting this idea. Yes, we do our best for our children. Yes, we try to ensure they are capable of loving, mutually beneficial personal relationships, fulfilling career relationships, and general capability in life. But is all this really going to be threatened because we lost our temper one afternoon when they were three? Or decided to use CIO for three weeks when they were 8 months old? Or didn’t breastfeed? Or chose Preschool A over Preschool B – or didn’t send them to preschool at all? Or were impatient with the Terrible Twos or the Hysterical Thirteens? Or were, just, generally, slightly less than perfect?

(Hint: No.)

There are others: I have issues with messages that suggest that the multitude of changes you experience after the birth of a child are a) unnecessary and b) completely within your control if you “just” organized yourself better (and, thus c) merest self-indulgence).

I don’t like the way mothers are set against one another: working-for-pay vs. working-for-free. I certainly don’t like the way so many mothers are willing to choose a side and leap into the fray which only demeans all mothers. (The “Mommy Wars” manage to both bore me witless and enrage me beyond belief, all at the same time.)

I don’t like the way we set children as the fulcrum of the family. That they are the heart of it, I have no doubt. That is as it should be. But that everything should pivot on the child and his/her needs, with everyone else taking second place? And that to balance your child’s needs against your own – and sometimes let your child’s take second place – is somehow a parental failure? I completely reject this one.

Okay. I’ll stop here, and move on to the positive messages society provides us.
.
Well, there’s — but then again…
.
Hmmm….
.
Okay, what about — well, perhaps, but then…
.
.
.
Well, then. I am rather surprised to realize how much difficulty I’m having with this one. What are useful societal messages for parents? Every possible positive I’ve come up with, I’ve immediately seen so many contradictory corollaries, I end up discarding it as a possibility.

Obviously, I need help with this question! Any takers? What do YOU think? What are some positive, useful messages our society gives us? What are the negative, unhelpful ones?

July 29, 2007 Posted by | controversy, memes and quizzes, parenting, peer pressure | 11 Comments

Interview Question Number 3: Mary’s Parenting Mistakes

The third installment of the Interview Meme. You can find the previous two questions here (#1), and here (#2).

3. Most people who read your blog end up, like me, very impressed by your parenting (caregiving) skills. But ‘fess up, it ain’t all Mary Poppins! Share one of your mistakes with us! When you first started parenting, what were you doing that causes the more experienced, wiser version of MaryP to shake her head disapprovingly and mutter “tsk tsk”?

I do, you know. “Tsk, tsk” my younger self. Which is not to say I think I did a bad job. I rather think I did a great job, and my kids bear that out. However, back in the early days, I was…
I was…

I was an Earnest Mommy.

Yes, indeed. Nowadays I mock them, gently. Once, I was one.

Let me first say that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being an Earnest Mommy. Most first-time mothers are Earnest Mommies, and they do, for all their over-analysis, angst, and intensity, a fine job. (YES, of course you do!) However, Earnest Mommy-ing does lend itself to certain parental weaknesses…

Now, I wasn’t an out-of-control Earnest Mommy. My children were never allowed to treat me with disrespect, scream in my face or hit me, dictate their own bedtimes, or misbehave in coffee shops.

But…

See this fridge magnet? Which I now have on my fridge because it makes me grin, every time?

slackermom.jpg

Back in the early days, I would not have understood this. It would only have confused, or perhaps annoyed, me. It would have been inexplicable. Aren’t mothers supposed to do all they can for their children? Isn’t it right and appropriate that a child can know s/he can rely on their parents?

Now I know better. Yes, I do my best, but I am not the beginning and end of my child’s world. Their every twitch and rustle does not take its root in me. Their decisions are their own, not mine.

In the early days, I made it my responsibility to see that my children were happy.

So, when my first came home from school upset at a certain social interaction or dynamic, I would work with her, sorting it out, analysing it, considering the best possible response(s). I might – though not often, even then – meet with the teacher or even phone the parents of the other children. But mostly, when working it through with my daughter, I would not leave off until she was happy. If I put forth several possible solutions, and she, in her disgruntlement, dismissed each and every one, I’d keep going, brain-storming, encouraging, persisting, probably, now that I consider it from this distance, essentially badgering her (in the kindest and best-of-intentioned ways), until she would accept one of the ideas (or, unlikely as it might be in a mindset of dismissal, suggest an idea of her own) and work with me.

The result? I became responsible, not only to be a resource to her in these situations, but for her happiness.

Mistake.

When you make yourself responsible for your child’s happiness, you take this responsibility from your child. Now when the child is upset or disgruntled, it’s up to you, the parent, to fix it. It becomes your fault. An impossible situation, really, because no one, no matter how much they love, cherish, respect, admire – whatever – another person, no one can make another person happy.

As a result of my Earnest Mommy refusing-to-release till she was content, when she was unhappy, I became the source of that feeling. Of course, I wasn’t (well, not generally!), but we both worked on the assumption that until Haley was happy, my work wasn’t finished. It made for a lot of dissatisfaction, resentfulness, and, ironically, unhappiness. (Well. Let me clarify: Haley’s childhood was essentially happy, and the conflicts we had in her adolescence would have made me the envy of many of her peer’s parents – but the principle holds. This assumption of ours reduced her experience happiness/satisfaction rather than enhanced it.)

Nowadays, I will listen, I will help the child sort it out, examine the dynamic, analyze what’s happening. Because, hey, I’ve been alive for 24/28/32 more years than you, kid, thus I have more general life experience, and a perspective you may lack. I provide a different outlook, and suggest myself as a resource. I will try to help the child evolve responses. But should the child resist…

“All right, then. I’ll leave it with you, then. You can let me know if you want to talk about this later.” (Sometimes, I confess, if the resistance has been expressed with sufficient snark, I will say this in a rather snarky tone of voice myself. Because I am human, and the older they get, the more one expects an adult-level response from them.) But I don’t respond with snark often, because most of the time, unless they’ve been offensive, I’m not offended. I’ve just know these days, that, bottom line, this is my child’s problem. If they wish my assistance, they can treat me and my ideas with respect. If they don’t wish my assistance – or, if they’re responding to it with resistance, hostility and/or disrespect – I don’t give it. Simple.

(I’m talking more about teens than toddlers here, but even with toddlers, you can – I certainly do – say “You may be angry, but you may not scream/hit/kick/bite. When you can use your calm voice/stop hitting, I can help you some more.”)

And thus they learn that a) I trust them to solve their problems/make their own decisions, b) I think they’ve capable of doing this without me, and c) their happiness is their responsibility. I will probably follow up in a day or two – “How did it go?” – but I don’t feel I must be part of the process through to its completion.

Emma appeared part-way through the writing of this. Sat on the porch railing and stared at me as I tried to compose my next pithy sentence. When I finally deigned to look at her, she came out with the completely predictable, “I’m bored.” I lifted my chin, grinned at her, and said, “Not my responsibility.” “Ooooo”, she says, pointing a finger at me and made a hissing sound, grins, and vanishes inside the house. Two minutes later, she’s on her way to a friend’s. Perfect!

She’s happy. I’m happy.

July 21, 2007 Posted by | memes and quizzes, parenting | 11 Comments

Interview Question Number 2: Interactions as Opportunities

Ages ago, I was tagged for an Interview Meme. I answered the first question, and then promised you all to answer the next four questions, one a week on Saturdays. Well. Time does fly, huh? Here’s installment two, a mere five weeks later!

2. Allow me to introduce this question with an anecdote. I had the privilege of watching you homeschool your children. I had no biases about homeschooling, pro or con, but I was amazed by the method you used. After a month or two had passed, I asked, “But when do you school them?” I was expecting formal instruction of some kind and it wasn’t happening — not that I ever saw. But your method (what method?!) worked: when your children entered the school system in grade four or five, they were equal to or ahead of their peers academically.

The answer to my amazement is found in your philosophy of care. It states, “Every interaction is a learning opportunity.” I know from observing you how subtle the principle is in practice! Please explain so that others can apply it.

Ugh. Wouldn’t it be simpler if you all just took turns hiding behind the couch and watching?

Where to start?

You all know I’m not a big supporter of constant and earnest parental hovering over children, but I am uneasily aware that what I am about to describe will sound like just exactly that.

Hmmm…

Let’s start with a caveat: Making the most of every interaction does not mean that you have to involve yourself in every second of your child’s days. It may very well mean leaving your child alone, and pretending not to see that they’re struggling with something, in order to give them the opportunity to either figure it out on their own, improvise an alternative, or give it up and try for something more within their capabilities. I believe children need and deserve space and quiet times – even when they might not realize it. I believe children need and deserve time alone to learn how to amuse themselves, to learn how resilient and creative they are, to learn that they can control a certain range of their time and activities.

However.

There are many times in every day when you will involve yourself. When you do opt to get involved, you do it in such as way as to allow the child(ren) to develop themselves, expand their understanding, enrich their experience.

I think the key to “Interactions as Opportunities” is to have a set of principles by which you parent. Then, when a situation arises, you will be able to respond in a way commensurate with your principles. It means you have to have thought your principles through thoroughly, of course, and that you will constantly be evaluating how this or that event reflects a principle, or can be used to underline one.

When I was homeschooling, my two directing principles were:
1. Children are natural learners who don’t need to be coaxed or manipulated into learning.
2. My role is facilitator of this natural drive, not enforcer of information absorption.

Thus, my days with my kids involved me following their natural curiosity. I would suggest activities that would include aspects of learning they mightn’t get to on their own, or to enrich their inclinations, but it was always their curiosity and desire that led us – and they had lots! EVERY child does.

If my principles had included children need to learn structure and adherence to routine in order to prepare them for the Real World, I’d probably have established set times for lessons and required submissions of completed worksheets at regular intervals. However, I don’t think this, so I didn’t do it that way. (If you do think that, you would homeschool differently, and our children would probably be just as well educated!)

It’s also occurring to me as I struggle to answer this in a tidy, directed way, that Stephen has asked me two questions here, not one. First, he asks about homeschooling, and then he asks about my principle that “All Interactions are Opportunities”. No wonder I’m having trouble pulling it together without charging off on tangents in every direction! (You all have no idea how much I’ve written then dumped, trying to write something concise and coherent.)

There is a joining thread between the two ideas, though. I have always believed that education is not discrete from life. One thing that homeschooling taught me in a very tangible way is that education is something children (or anyone!) do/does for themselves. It is not, as so many kids in school settings believe, something that is done to them. (Which they must resist.)

Education is life; life is education. Yes, there are certain facts and figures it would do well to absorb, but if they’re necessary and meaningful, they will get absorbed.

With toddlers, it is the same. Lessons are learned through living and experiencing, only with babies and toddlers, the lessons are social/relational, not so much cognitive. (Yes, of course there are many cognitive things going on – object permanence, conservation of mass, learning how to use simple tools (crayons, spoons, blocks) – but the primary and foundational lessons are social, relational, behavioural.)

In fact, I would go so far as to say that until these foundational lessons are learned there is little point in trying to instill cognitive (in the sense of academic) information. A child who doesn’t trust, and who is still in full Power Struggle mode is not going to be a willing partner in learning colours, shapes and the letters of the alphabet.

So, given that the primary lessons of infancy and toddlerhood are social/relational in scope, how else could they be learned but by doing? Yes, there are lots of board books out there that deal with behavioural and emotional issues – biting, the death of a pet, sibling struggles, remarriage, you name it – but these serve only as adjuncts to the real lessons that are learned from the curriculum of living.

This hasn’t gotten into specifics, I know. But that’s because my principles may or may not be yours. My values, my structures, my priorities may or may not be of any relevance to yours and your family at all.

Know your principles, and apply them one tiny incident, one little interaction at a time. Parenting (thank goodness) is done in baby steps. Thus, it really (really!) doesn’t matter if you mess up one interaction, or even if you have a whole rotten day of them. What matters is the cumulative effect of thousands of day-in, day-out interactions of attentiveness, respect, high expectations, encouragement, challenge, and love.

One baby step at a time.

July 14, 2007 Posted by | aggression, behavioural stuff, health and safety, manners, memes and quizzes, parenting, power struggle, socializing | 11 Comments

Well-Read Book Meme

Scooped from Solo Mom:

Take the list below, paste it into your own blog, and mark them as follows:
READ for those you’ve read;
WANT TO next to those you are interested in;
AGAIN & AGAIN next to those you’ve read and loved, over and over;
REPEAT for those you’ve read more than once, without necessarily loving them;
MEH for stuff you read and weren’t impressed by;
STARTED for those that just never got finished;
and leave blank those you don’t care to read.

Title Rating
1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) One huge MEH.
(Did I even finish?
Sooo boring.)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) Again & Again
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) Repeat
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) Read
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien) Read
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien) Read
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien) Read
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) Read
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) Read
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling) Read
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) Read
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling) Read
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) Read
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) Read
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling) Read
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling) Read
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) Read
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien) Again & Again
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) Read
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) Repeat
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold) Read
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) Meh
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) Read
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) Repeat
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) Again & Again
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck) Meh
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom) Started
31. Dune (Frank Herbert) Meh
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) Started.
Made maybe 5 pages.
Yawn.
34. 1984 (Orwell) Again and again
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) Read
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) Read
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel) Meh
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) Read
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom) Read
45. The Bible Repeat
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) Read
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) Started
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) Read
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) Read
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb) Meh
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) Meh
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) Read
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) Read
54. Great Expectations (Dickens) Read
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) Meh
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence) Repeat
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling) Read
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) Meh
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) Repeat
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) Again and again
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) Started
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) Started
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) Meh
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis) Again and Again
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares) Meh
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) Started
69. Les Miserables (Hugo) Want to
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) Read
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding) Read
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell) Started
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje) Started
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) Repeat
76. Tigana (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith) Read
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving) Read
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence) Read
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) Repeat
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley) Read
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck) Read
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier) Read
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen) Again and Again
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams) Again and Again
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) Again and Again
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields) Repeat
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) Read
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck) Started
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd) Want to
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton) Read
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Wow. I’ve tackled 78 of those hundred books. (Read 69, started 9 more.) Decent achievement, that. Some weeks I read five to seven books; others, only one or two. It’s a rare week that I don’t finish a single book.

For someone who reads so much it must seem odd that there are only a couple on this list I express a desire to read. This is not because they don’t interest me, but because my reading is rarely planned in advance. But in the library, where I go almost every week, I am a kid in a candy store, pulling first one then the other off the shelves.

Anyone else who decides to tackle this meme, leave a note in the comments, and I’ll come have a look!

March 19, 2007 Posted by | books, memes and quizzes | 20 Comments

Power Struggles

I know I promised you a follow-up to the book I discovered, Beyond Time-Out, but I can’t! I’ve already lent it to a parent. Obviously, I need to buy my own copy. Or two.

However, the book did get me thinking about a few things, and I’m going to muse on one of them today.

“Oh, I never get into a power struggle with my child. You just can’t win those!”

Have you heard this? I have, quite routinely. The parent who says it is generally quite pleased with herself. She (less commonly he) seems to view it as a point of pride. A rueful one, perhaps, but a point of pride nonetheless. It’s a thread in the parenting ether out there, a parenting meme: Avoid power struggles. They’re costly, they’re exhausting, and, more to the point you just. can’t. win. Why dive into the stress and the mess when you know it’ll only result in humiliation and frustration?

I agree with a lot of that. Avoid unnecessary power struggles, of course. Don’t foolishly set yourself up for one, because they are indeed costly and exhausting, emotionally and physically.

But.

“You just can’t win?”

Are you nuts?

You have to win. In the first three or four years of life, establishing your role as authority in the child’s life is one of your primary parenting job. You do that all sorts of ways: by caring for their physical needs, by being emotionally available and supportive, by loving them to itty-bitty bits.

And by winning power struggles.

I think the resistance to the idea of winning these struggles has three sources.

1. Many people don’t like the idea of “power” in a family context. It smacks of authoritarianism, of oppression. They read “win” and “power”, and they think “power tripping” and “bullying”.

2. When in a power struggle, your toddler will, along with the raging, almost certainly cry. A loving parent hates to see their child cry, and many loving parents respond to the tears by backing away from the conflict. They may even feel guilty at having provoked the tears, and never want to do that again! What kind of a parent, they wonder, is willing to trample roughshod over their child’s feelings just because some toys need to be picked up?

3. Many people have tried to tackle their toddler … and have lost. Ignominiously. They have skittered from the fray, tail between their legs, uncomfortably and humiliatingly aware that not only are the toys still not picked up, but they have been bested by someone who comes up to their belt buckle and who still says “yeyyow” instead of “yellow”. (And is probably pointing to something orange when s/he says it.) Who wants to repeat that experience?

Given these points, why do I insist that you must win power struggles?

The short-term answer: Family harmony.

It’s your job as the parent to be the authority in your family. If you let your child think you’re afraid of power struggles, they will set them up. You won’t have to worry about seeking out a power struggle — they’ll be thrown at you. What’s the end result of a parent who can’t or won’t see a power struggle through and prevail? Chaos. And conflict. Continuing, unrelenting conflict.

The long-term answer: Your child’s happiness.

Toddlers like to vie for power. They want to be in control … but they aren’t developmentally ready for it. They have no idea how to wield power constructively. They are impulsive, short-sighted, impetuous, selfish. They will choose to do things that are just not good for themselves. You cannot trust a child to know what is in her or her own best interests.

A person who has never learned to share power, to defer to others is not going to get along well in life. They will likely be ostracized by their peers, because who wants to be friends with a person who always must have things their way? They will likely experience more conflict, as their peers push back with more vigour than their parents ever did.

Sadly, loving but misguided parental efforts to avoid tears and conflict … results in long-term conflict and dissatisfaction for the child — who is, one day, going to be an adult. Unless they can learn those life lessons elsewhere — from more rough-and-ready peers, from some good teachers, from other family members — they will not be happy people.

If it’s so bad for them, why do they do it?

– they don’t know it’s bad for them. No point in asking the child why. They don’t know! If you step back a pace, it doesn’t take long to see that no toddler has the cognitive and emotional maturity to know why they do what they do.
– it is developmentally normal for a toddler to be testing the boundaries. Who are you? Who are they? Are they a separate person from you? YES! And how do they express their autonomy? PUSHING BACK! SAYING NO! RESISTANCE! DEFIANCE! Wheeee… However, just because something is developmentally normal does not mean that a parent does nothing to shape and direct that stage. Besides, the purpose of this stage is to establish their autonomy and your role as a strong resource. If you’re not strong, they are undermined. Ironically, what they need at this stage is the exact opposite of what they want.

A further irony here is that if a parent consistently backs down from power struggles in order to avoid tears, they only ensure ever more of them. You must see them through.

What is “seeing it through”?
– it does not mean humiliating or brow-beating your child
– it does not mean frightening your child
– it does not mean pleading, coaxing, negotiating
– it does means ignoring the protests and calmly but firmly seeing that the request is accomplished
– it is often entirely possible to do this with a light touch; I regularly use humour

What is gained by consistently seeing power struggles through to the end?
– the conflict ends
– the child is calm
– the damned toys get picked up
– there will be fewer and fewer power struggles
– you can say something once, calmly and cheerfully, and with only occasional exceptions, that’s what happens
– your child feels secure, knowing they can rely on you to be their safe harbour when their emotions get the best of them
— your child trusts you

Okay. So let’s say you’ve all bought in to this idea. Power struggles are inevitable. The parent must see them through. They are not to be avoided at all costs. And you will never, ever again say, “Oh, I never get into power struggles with my child!” as if this is a parental accomplishment instead of a) an impossibility and b) a mistake.

You’ve bought into all that. Now you’re saying, “Okay, but how? How do you respond? What happens next?”

That’ll be for the next post in this series, when I get my hands back on that book! This might not happen until next week, but we’ll get there!

January 17, 2013 Posted by | books, parenting, power struggle | , , | 4 Comments