Each child is uniquely different, with different personalities and different triggers to action. So what happens when your child is willfully disobedient or unruly? When they knowingly cross the line?
You’ll Break Your Tailbone!
Recently my little kids got roller skates! I discovered three pairs of skates at a thrift store that perfectly fit each kid. And they were the grow-with-me skates. All for the price of $9!! So I put the skates on the kids…8, 7 and 4 years old. I also made them wear their bike helmets. I never wore mine when skating, but I think the Earth’s gravitational pull is stronger now so the odds of the kids falling and busting their heads is significantly greater than when I was a kid.
Anyway…it became obvious really quickly that these kids were not good at skating. If you ever were unsure if you were a helicopter parent, put skates on your kids. You’ll find out where you stand really quickly! So, I established boundaries for skating. The kids couldn’t pass the first line in the driveway until they had become a little more proficient in not falling all over the place. Our driveway slopes upward so I was not about to let them up that hill until they showed me some skill.
Of course soon enough, girl child was a skating “pro” (not really…but she’s waaay better than she was) and boy child was completely out of control but for some reason never fell. Like ever. I’m not sure what was happening but it was almost like he couldn’t fall if he wanted to. He was a straight up mess of flailing arms and wildly kicking, rolling feet but his grin was huge and he always made it to his intended destination (the other side of the driveway into the grass). So I relaxed the rule a bit for them.
Baby girl? That was another story. She is not good at all with skating. Partly because she’s four and how good can you actually be at that age? Partly because she kept sitting down, goofing off, taking one skate off and just not getting any real practice time in. But as soon as she saw girl child and boy child crossing “the line” she wanted to cross the line as well.
Oh heck no, darling. No way in all of heck am I going to let you past that line. Are you kidding me? Have you seen yourself skate? She was not pleased that she couldn’t cross the line. So do you know what she spent the rest of skate time doing? Getting herself right up to the line and looking back at me with a sparkly eye while saying, “I’m gonna cwoss da line, Momma!”
Why would she do this? Why would she knowingly disobey me and why is she wanting to cross the line? Well, if you’ve met baby girl, you’ll know the force is strong in that one. She’s got a strong will that makes me wonder what we are going to do with her because all of our tried and true manipulation tactics do not work on this child.
So here’s the thing..and believe me when I say I’ve failed at this. Miserably. Yelling at a child like this will not make her want to change whatever she’s doing and do what it is that you want her to do. In fact, it thus becomes her mission to never do that thing you want her to do. Or conversely, she will try come hell or high water to do the thing you’ve yelled at her not to do. And this may or may not include skating past the line.
Manipulation- The Puppeetering of Childhood
We may have stumbled upon some things that work pretty good for this kind of child. I don’t claim to guarantee these will always work and maybe these are unique to baby girl. But here’s some things that we found to be effective:
- A distinct choice Not a crappy choice…she smells a bad deal a mile away. A good choice. Baby girl falls apart if she doesn’t get to sit next to Momma at a restaurant. Like big, loud, long-lasting fall apart. So…a trip to the bathroom to discuss options is in order. I squat down to her eye level and I ask her to quiet her cry. Then I ask her to take a breath…fill her lungs (she obliges). I tell her “here are your two options:” and I make sure to put up two fingers so she “sees” her options. “#1, you sit across from Momma now and it’ll be your turn to sit by me the next restaurant we go to. I’ll write it down. #2, we go home right now and you spend the rest of the afternoon in your room while girl child and boy child skate.” She gets to choose her fate. Now she’ll try to negotiate and I again list her two options. She’ll try to wind up her fit and I tell her the choices are gone, it’s time to go home. At this point in her young life, she can’t call my bluff so she starts yelling “No, Momma!” and I start the process over again. I give her the two choices. Once she resigns herself to choosing option 1, I tell her how proud I am of her and I ask her for a hug, which she really wants. While I hug her I tell her I’m so happy she will be across from me because I can look at her beautiful eyes when we talk. She suddenly likes this idea.
- “I need you to…OK?” I used to think asking a child “OK?” after I gave an instruction was a sign of weakness. But now I see it, at least for baby girl, as a way to empower her to be a part of what she’s about to do. Obviously I still manipulate the situation to produce the desired result, but she gets to actually agree “all by herself”. “Baby girl, I need you to help me set the table, ok?” or “Baby girl, I need you to pick up your books, ok?”. She usually responds favorably to this kind of request. But in the instances where she may balk, I sprinkle the request with a compliment: “Baby girl, You are always so good at helping out, I need you to help me set the table, ok?” Compliments go far with her…really far. She wants to do good. She wants to be noticed for doing what she is supposed to do. If she’s doing something she knows is good and we are a little slow to notice her, she’ll say, “Momma aren’t you so very pwoud of me?” This is the part that impresses me. She really does want to do the right thing. We’ve just got to convince her of what it is sometimes.
- Logic At least with Baby girl, she gets logic. She really understands it. The key is to keep it simple and attainable. So don’t threaten her with tossing all her clothes in the trash if she doesn’t put them away. That’s obviously not going to happen and it’ll reduce the credibility of your future logic arguments. Logic to baby girl looks like this: “Baby girl, I need you to put all of your markers away because I’m worried that puppy dog will get a hold of them and start chewing on them. I don’t want a marker to get stuck in her belly because she will get very sick!” Baby girl is loyal to her dog. That dog isn’t going down on her watch, no sir. That appeal to logic (or really emotion) sets baby girl in motion quickly.
Obviously, there’s much to consider with a determined child…this is just a sampling of what works for ours. We often think of how much of a challenge baby girl is, where it comes from, and how to dismantle it without breaking her spirit. There’s no one way to tackle this and it’s a moving target. The key is to adapt and adjust. I’ll reiterate what I said earlier…I have failed at all of this. But I’ve also had success. And it’s those successes that you build on.