Monday, March 26, 2012

Finding Balance

One of the principles of attachment theory that I really like and yet struggle with is that we should be treating our children with respect. I feel strongly that my children are not little aliens but rather future adults with nerve endings, feelings, thoughts, opinions and the like. To this end, I really try to be as truthful and open with Smug-Baby as is possible. I really try to give her explanations about why she should be doing this, or more likely, why she shouldn't be doing that. However, detailed explanations to a two-year old aren't always going to work!

When she is calm and focused on me I can explain things to her and I can see her mind taking in the words and understanding a lot of what I say. However, when she is really focused on doing whatever it is that she wants to do and frustrated with me for not allowing her access to whatever it is, she doesn't take any of my words to heart (at least on the surface as in my words have no effect on her actions at the moment) and she just struggles against me.

In these moments when she is playing with, say, a light socket, I have to react by physically removing her from the danger, that is my instinct and the immediate need to keep her from being shocked overrules my desire to make her understand why she shouldn't play with light socket. The issue is then she is very upset at having her little self moved without her permission and she feels overpowered, helpless and frustrated, so she isn't able to focus on my words explaining that the light socket can give her a boo-boo or that the light socket isn't for touching. She is too upset by my overruling of her to take in any of it.

Now, when we are playing or reading, it is the perfect time to explain to her things because she is open and receptive to new information, however it makes absolutely no sense to her to try to explain why she shouldn't touch the light socket when there is no light socket in view and nothing to help her even see the appeal of touching the light socket. It has no impact.

I have come to this conclusion and will be trying to implement this as much as possible going forward, without feeling guilty for times when it doesn't work. I will not let her play with a light socket or anything else dangerous while I attempt to explain why she shouldn't play with said item, I will physically remove her from the situation and while I am calming her frustration I will try to say words and use a tone that can convey to her that I understand her frustration and I love her and I am sorry and I understand how she feels. Once she is calmer I will try to explain why the situation was dangerous and why she can't play/do whatever it was. I can only hope that my words will sink in and have an effect on her, so that the next time she plays with the light socket, my saying "not for touching" will result in her remembering that I had to move her last time and remember some of my explanation.

I don't want to be one of those parents (we have all seen them) who let their children run over them. They never listen, they are rude and rowdy and have no respect for other people's things. They do what they want and the parents have no control and everyone feels awkward. Just as badly though, I don't want to be one of these parents (we have seen these guys too) who treat their children like little adults who are expected to be polite all the time and have an adults comprehension of situations and know how they should behave. These children stand against walls and mumble insincere "I'm Sorry's" and we all feel uncomfortable.

I want to find a balance between these two all or nothing parenting styles (and yes, I know that most families fall somewhere in the middle) I want to raise a child who says that they are sorry because they actually feel sorry about what they may have done. I want to raise a child who says please because they hear their parents and other people saying please, not because we withhold a bite of cake until they say it! I want my daughter to respect me and other adults and listen when I tell her not to do something, but I want her to know that I am not being arbitrary about it and that there is a reason and know that it will be explained to her.

I want her to feel loved and respected and I want to show her how to treat others and how others should (and shouldn't) treat her. I want her to know that it isn't OK for a boyfriend to belittle her, so why would it be OK for me to treat her disrespectfully? We wonder why there are women out there who go back to abusive husbands, or stay with a boyfriend who lies and cheats. Well... Maybe it started when their parents taught them it was OK.

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