I am a determined, independent woman with strong opinions (sometimes to my detriment, to be sure) but I have (mostly) learned along my 40-year journey when to bare my teeth and when to turn my back. And then I had a daughter. I had to think about raising a girl. All of a sudden, I felt the weight of having to teach her how to be all of those things that I wanted to be, too, while still making sure she didn’t choke on grapes or fall out of the stroller.
There are many schools of thought on parenting; I am a proud supporter of none of them. I will willingly try out and use whatever works best for my daughter, whether it’s “attachment parenting” at bedtime, or the “time-out method” when she is hitting me. I take pieces of advice from everywhere until I hit on something that works.
One thing I do know for certain is that parenting a girl is hard. And before all of the boy-moms take umbrage, I have parented a boy too – he was nowhere near this mercurial.
My daughter is smart as a whip, and she repeats my words back to me quicker than I can shut my mouth (which, clearly, is not very quick). I’ve learned a few things since my daughter turned 2 and started throwing my words and actions right back at me.
Never go “bigger” than her.
Going bigger with the attitude than her never works. She outguns me every time, and man, is she good. There are other ways to get her to cooperate besides insisting my ego has to win, and that was a really tough thing for me to let go of.
Keep your ego out of it.
If my ego is what is driving the conflict, the problem is not my daughter’s behaviour. She has a burgeoning ego too, and she is just as keen as I am to get her way. The difference is that I know how to decide if the battle is worth it, and she does not. She is in it to win it, because she wants what she wants and she wants it ten minutes ago. Decide what is worth it, and drop the need to win.
Distraction is not a lesson lost.
When my daughter started pushing the boundaries (and the limits on my patience), I thought every “transgression” needed to be addressed, solved, and put away right then and there. All of a sudden I had a two-year-old who completely disagreed with that, and I discovered the fine art of distraction. Bedtime turned into a battle until I started ignoring the behaviour and asking what toy she wanted to bring to bed. Having a hard time getting out of the house? “Let’s take Minnie Mouse in the car!”
When you are wrong, admit it, and do it quickly.
I want my daughter to be comfortable being wrong. If I expect her to apologize when she has done something or acted badly, then I better be doing it too, and doing it quickly take some of the heat off for both of us.
When I feel my blood beginning to boil because I have asked her ten times to stay out of the fridge and now there is juice all over the floor, I take ten seconds to think about her “why.” Was she trying to help? Did she want to try all by herself? Thinking about that for a few seconds gives me the time I need to react to her “why” with kindness, instead of responding to the situation with anger.
These little things may not seem like much, but when I started doing them I noticed subtle changes right away. She seems to have a little more patience, and comes around a little quicker than she used to.
She is me, and I am her. She is learning everything from me as we go, including how to treat the people around her. I want those messages to be clear and fair, so I better be too.