Posted by: angelnorman | May 31, 2007

Independence and obedience can indeed co-exist, if only for awhile.

Somewhere along the way, between my toddler taking those first steps (which already, just by themselves, transformed him from crawling baby into waddling toddler) and him learning to give me a thumbs up when something tastes good, we entered the stage of toddlerhood where independence is the piece de resistance. Gone are the days when dressing my kid was an easy task without screaming from my angel child about which shirt he’d prefer to wear. “Bull-bull shut!” (bulldozer shirt) and “Woh Woh shut!” (fire engine shirt) are both common orders given by the toddler at dressing time that if not acknowledged and obeyed, ignites a tantrum the likes of which you’ve never seen

…. unless you’ve stood in the 88-cent aisle at Wal-Mart trying to coax your child into a cheap toy when all he or she really wants is that piece of crap plastic figure that costs $19.95 and will probably break as soon as you take it out of the packaging and hand it over to the little Destroyer you call your child.

That’s pretty much the same kind of tantrum-inducing thing for us.

(And for the love of all that is holy and good in this world, please don’t try and explain that he just wore the shirt he wants to wear the day before and that it’s dirty. He simply does not understand this notion.)

There’s no more of him letting me brush his teeth, put his shoes on (until he screams out “CAN’T DO IT!” in defeat, and then if I don’t offer to help, he cries), give him bedtime kissies without me forcing it, or even hold him and snuggle before naptime. Cries for cuddling have now been replaced with angry screams of, “I do it!” in which he grabs his blanket and rocks himself in the glider, the same one that was purchased with dreams of lovingly gliding back and forth with my baby in my arms racing through my pregnant head. Okay, okay. So I did that up until like two weeks ago. Still, I cannot help but notice how much he’s pulling away from me, and how hard he fights to assert himself as his own person.

Like any good mother, I want to encourage his independence, even though it hurts when he refuses me the lovin’ he would so willingly give in days not so long ago. I like to give him the opportunity though to try things on his own, to learn and grow and be his own person. I like watching him succeed at something and say afterwards, “I did it!” with a big smile on his face. I also like to see him not succeed (I hate to say “fail” here because that just sounds tacky), but in turn, learn that he can’t always do everything that pops into his head (for instance, removing the Brita pitcher from the fridge so that he could fill all his dump trucks with water.) I love to watch all this growth and learning happen, as sad as it might make me to see him grow because I know, ultimately, he’ll not need me at all. And isn’t that the goal of parenthood really? To raise kids who are self-sufficient and thus productive members of society? Yep, it’s my goal anyways. That, and to teach him every Beatles song I know.

I didn’t have an issue though until he started asserting himself by becoming extremely adamant about what he would and would not eat. I would say, “Eat your spaghettio-s!” And although spaghettio-s were his favorite meal yesterday, today was certainly a new day and he’d have no part of my orders to eat when he simply did not wish to do so.

This went from being a weekly issue to a daily issue while we were on vacation. The kid would eat all sugary bad things and then refuse everything else. He’d even order for himself, “cheese” for grilled cheese or “buh-guh” for burger. And when our food would arrive, he’d refuse it entirely. Our vacation went on like this, with only cake and lollipops appeasing my sweet boy for an entire weekend. Then when we got home, I couldn’t take it anymore.

So I read an article about not bossing your kids around that really made a lot of sense to me although it was titled something more parental and professional and never used the words “bossing your kid around”. The idea was that the kid, when given limits that he could understand, would follow practically whatever direction you gave him as long as it was delivered properly. It recommended such tactics as the “10 minute warning” before changing his schedule to fit whatever you need of him. For instance, if dinner time was approaching, instead of simply turning off the TV and asking him to come and eat, you say to your kid, “Kid, in 10 minutes we will be eating peas and meatloaf, okay?” And it also recommended that you allow the kid to assist in meal-making so that he understands the work involved and is given a sense of control over what he eats.

Both things have worked like a charm in this house, especially the warning thing. SO FAR. I know this will probably last a week or two tops, but right now I am thankful to be effectively communictaing with him and watching him respond positively to my commands. I say to my boy that it’s almost time for lunch, and he always answers with an, “Okay, Mommy.” I will also say to him, “We’re going to clean your room, okay?” And again it’s “Okay, Mommy.” If I make it more of a request, he’s definitely more inclined to do it.

And that’s just the kinda kid he is. Yours may not be similar to mine in this way, but my sweet boy has always been one of those kids who love to feel as if they’re “big boy helpers”, or so we call them around here. And as far as eating is concerned, if he thinks he helped make it, you better believe he’s going to be all about eating it.  As a matter of fact, he made himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich today and he even told me a thousand times afterwards that it was “yummy”.

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