I’ve written before about the joys and frustrations of raising a strong-willed child. I thought we peaked at 3-and-a-half, but we are reaching new milestones of self-sufficiency and development every day, most of which serve to remind me that every inch I give in parental control to this kid results in a serious battle of wills at some point. I know I personally never (ever) learn from someone else’s mistakes but in case you are smarter than me, let me share the lessons I have learned from my little leader-to-be. I am, by the way, fully intending on implementing these valuable lessons as Frick and Frack mature, but so far they seem a little more malleable in temperament so I’m frankly not expecting such a problem. And besides that, Bisky is more than willing to step in and enforce the rules much more objectively and consistently than I ever have so I’m not sure being spoiled is in the cards for the poor mites. So anyway, based on the list of things I have to undo now because I was weak, here are 3 don’ts and 2 do’s when dealing with strong willed children.
- Do not ever, ever let them sleep in your bed. In fact, I would recommend not even letting them know where your bedroom is. Maybe hire a graphic designer to paint your door so that it looks like a window or just a wall. Strong-willed kids are vampires, and once you let them in, they will not leave until they’ve drained every drop of life from your body. Case in point? Every night of her life from the time she was 6 months old, Bisky slept in her own bed, all the way through the night until morning. Then, when I was virtually incapacitated while pregnant with the twins, I thought it would be sweet to have “Mommy/Bisky” time in Mommy’s bed in the evenings. Partly because I couldn’t move very well and partly because of misplaced guilt about two babies coming, this seemed like a good idea at the time. Well it wasn’t. It was a terrible idea and two years later we STILL are having issues.
- Don’t obey them. My life proves out the Stanley Milgram experiments of the 50’s. In case you weren’t a psychology student, basically they were these hugely unethical experiments where subjects were tricked into believing they were delivering fatal electrical shocks to fellow participants. Nobody really got hurt (other than the trauma of believing oneself to be a murderer of course) but the point was, most people do whatever someone in authority tells them to – especially if they say it authoritatively enough. A strong-willed 4-year-old can say things VERY authoritatively so make sure you don’t automatically do what they command or you start a bad pattern. “Go get my water” is NOT something that should be met with anything other than “EXCUSE ME?” or you will be running around carrying out their whims forever. And they have a LOT of whims.
- Don’t engage in debate. My kid reminds me of the Terminator when she wants something badly enough, or, equally often, when she just wants to argue. You know the line… “They can’t be reasoned with, they can’t be bought and they WILL NOT STOP until you are DEAD”. Just sayin’. My biggest ally in this battle of wills is something I learned from another Mommy blog…the beautiful phrase “asked and answered”.
And for the do’s that help me maintain my sanity?
- Do remember they’re still little. No matter how mature she acts, I have to remember that my daughter’s brain is still forming and she’s still learning about the world – mostly from me. So even though she asks “When will we reach our destination?” instead of “are we there yet?”, she still takes it literally if I say a million years and it hurts her feelings if she thinks I’m laughing at her.
- Do be grateful. As much as my controlling, demanding little daughter exasperates me at times, I wouldn’t trade her for the world. Do I wish JUST ONCE she’d say okay when I asked her to do something? Yes, I admit that would be nice. Would I really want a wimpy little milquetoast for a kid? No, not any more than I’d want one for a husband, as Dreamy so smugly reminds me when I get mad at him for being non-compliant with my will. No, that wouldn’t be much fun at the end of the day and I’d probably traumatize her. She needs to be especially strong willed now that the twins have weaponized themselves and I just have to trust it will all work out the way it should.
So yes, I do need to pick my battles, and work extra hard on consistency, and boundaries, and standing firm with my little fighter but those are thin
gs I needed to work on anyway so I guess I got the perfect Bisky for me (just like I always tell her). Funny how that works!