Monday, January 31, 2011

Parenting 101: Trouble is Brewing

This is the first in a series of posts I'm writing this week about the ever-elusive art of child-rearing. ((Do I need to stop here and point out that I am in no way, shape or form an expert on this subject? I would hope for my existing readers, that's pretty much a certainty understood by us all.)) I hope you come along for the ride and maybe learn a thing or two from our mistakes experiences!

I don't know about you, but my first-born child did not come with a "How To" manual, regardless of how much I wish it were so. We did the best we could as first-time parents, but ultimately, we took all of the authority in our family, wrapped it in a tiny little pink box with a pretty little bow and presented it right away to that beautiful, brown-eyed baby girl on the day she was born. Not knowingly, of course. I mean, really, who would turn over all power and control to a helpless, hours-old infant, regardless of how wonderfully she smelled or how sweet her little noises?

Not surprisingly, hubs and I have been challenged lately by our sweet LO's behavior. Granted, she's now 3 1/2 years old. Behavioral problems are bound to happen at this age. But it started to seem like things were getting out of control. The line of authority in our home continued to blur and it seemed Little Miss Thing truly was the one wearing the pants in the family, calling all the shots.

It started out innocent enough...
  • LO: I don't want water with dinner, I want milk!
    Us: Okay. No big deal. Here's some milk.
  • LO: I don't want to eat that for lunch!
    Us: Okay. No big deal. Here's a PB&J instead.
  • LO (swiping a toy from Chase): But I was playing with that first!
    Us: Okay. Here, Chase. How 'bout you play with this instead?

Now, of course there were some things she'd put up a fight about that we wouldn't give in on...

  • LO: I don't wanna go to bed!
    Us: It's 9pm. Go to bed, kid.
  • LO: I don't wanna wear my coat!
    Us: It's 12 degrees outside, kid. Put it on.
  • LO: I don't need to go potty!
    Us: Sit on the pot, kid, until something comes out.

When it came to her (and her brother's) health and safety, you can bet your britches (never said that in real life before... is that a southern saying? Weird.) we would lay down the law and do whatever was necessary to get her to comply.

But as for the day-to-day stuff? It started wearing on hubs and I. Big time.

The morning routine on school days was a nightmare. She wouldn't want to get out of bed. She didn't want to brush her teeth. She didn't want to wear "that" shirt because it was itchy. She would make all kinds of loud noise in the bathroom, which was right next to Chase's room (where he was still asleep).

Dinnertime was worse. Without even so much as knowing what was on her plate, she'd formally announce that she didn't like it and wasn't going to eat it. This is where hubs and I, the submissive, not-even-slightly-in-charge parents, would begin jumping through every hoop she'd toss our way to get her to eat her dinner. Some nights I'd just throw down a PB&J in front of her to avoid the fighting altogether. Other nights, I'd expect her to eat what I made for the rest of us. Hubs and I would try to make a game out of it, or threaten her with the loss of one of her favorite toys or games, or that she wouldn't get any dessert, etc. Then we might resort to some skill-building exercises like pleading with her to "just eat 4 bites of corn, 2 bites of chicken, etc..." We never got anywhere with her and dinnertime was complete and total chaos, night after night.


Now I know some of you are thinking. This just sounds like typical 3- or 4-year-old behavior... You just have to deal with it... She'll grow out of it eventually... Every parent has been through it... blah, blah, blah.

I don't agree with any of that. I believe she is knowingly and purposefully manipulating mommy and daddy to get her way because... get this... it's all she's ever known. Think about it. At what point do you stop catering to your newborn baby's every whim? At what point do you begin to teach responsibility? Discipline? Respect? Character?

We obviously hadn't hit that point over the past three and a half years. But we're there now.

The only question left is...

What do we do about it now?

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next post in this series!