Consistency Or Picking Your Battles: Toddler Edition
Today started out tough for me and Emily. I love how strong willed and independent she is at her adorable little three year old age, but sometimes it can be so challenging as a parent who knows why she needs certain things yet also knows she won't be able to grasp why. I say this as a joke sometimes but I'm starting to believe it's partially true; that toddlers are narcissist! Don't get me wrong, I'm not being 100% literal of course with that statement but let's check some facts, at least about my daughter:
- She wants things to always go her way.
- She has to be in control of everything she's doing or has at a certain moment.
- When her baby brother takes something from her she has a hard time not getting extremely upset.
- She wants her food first or she gets upset.
- If she doesn't want to take a bath, she gets upset if we put her in the tub and wash her.
- If she doesn't want to wear something, she'll refuse until she gets her way.
Although those times listed are short lived, they do happen, most of them at least once a day. I don't think it's right for a parent to expect their child to never question them or stand their ground as a developing person. Children are absorbing everything around them and pretty much figuring out life and experiencing new things and new emotions every single day and learning how to process these things. It's unreasonable to think they'll never be upset, just like it is for us adults when we don't get our way. Children just have the "luxury" of being allowed to show their unhappiness about the situation. Haha.
So anyway, I have been working really hard on being consciously consistent with rules in our house. If we're out at Target and Emily has cheerios and I notice her dropping them on the floor and laughing about it, I'll of course ask her to stop and explain why we don't do that. I also have started telling her ahead of time that if she does it again I'm putting the cheerios away and she won't get them back. Once she drops another cheerio on the floor I take them away and put them in the diaper bag. She cries and yells that she wants them back, and yes, it hurts my heart to see her like that. I'm not embarrassed to have her doing that in public. I know she needs to experience things like this to learn that her actions have consequences. I would absolutely love to be her best friend for the rest of my life, and right now even though she gets upset with me, I still am her best friend, but I know that won't last forever. It's so easy for me to just give in to her and give her the dang cheerios, but I know what that slippery-slope can lead to and I'm not about to go there. After a few minutes she's happy again and all is well but she'll start to remember that Mommy isn't playing around.
I always try to give Emily some freedom too, which can be challenging when it comes to certain things. Like when it's 40 degrees outside and Emily is insisting on not wearing a coat because it's hot outside. I know that as soon as I open the door she's going to say she's freezing. I also know that I'm not about to let her walk out of that door with no coat on! She just has to come to terms with that as well. What I'll do sometimes to give her a sense of freedom in this case is to pick two pairs of shoes and ask her which ones she'd like to wear. Or if we happen to have more than one coat, let her choose. I feel like that at least allows her to feel like she made the choice and wasn't forced since she obviously doesn't understand why we wear coats, or maybe at that time she just doesn't care!
When it comes to meals, we actually are pretty lax about it. Our dietician recommended offering something new on her plate but still including something we know she'll eat. Once she refuses the new food I've tried to make it a point to not allow her to have anything else until she tries whatever the food on her plate is. She will fight me on this but eventually she gives in and at least tries it. Oh, and it's not like I'm trying to feed her a scary looking lobster (haha) just to be clear, but asparagus or a baked potato, yes.
While I'm all about consistency I do "give in" sometimes. Fore example, I love getting out and about and Emily is a homebody like her Daddy, so when I really need to go to Target and ask her if she wants to go, I know she's going to say no. If I force her, what good is that really going to do? When she tells me she doesn't want to go to the store with me, which to me is a "chore", I ask her to help me do a different chore. One of her favorite things to help me with is laundry. She loves bringing me all the dirty (and clean) laundry to wash and is always so sure of herself and proud that she's helping. Things like this, I don't mind letting her make her own decision on. I can always wait to go out once Scott is home!
I suppose if the decision has anything to do with safety or health then I'm pretty consistent; seat belts being worn/coats being worn/sunscreen/food, etc. As you can see in the photos, we do occasionally hit up good old McDonald's and I'm ok with that! It keeps Emily happy, she is always the one to bring it up and that helps her feel like she has some control, and I always enjoy our little time together.