"I want a cookie. I want a cookie" turns in to "I want that toy, that dress and that car" until you just wear down and give it to them.
If I had to do it over again, I would read the book Parenting Your Powerful Child by Dr. Kevin Lehman just after What To Expect When You're Expecting. We put so much research in to the pregnancy and raising a baby but we go into auto pilot as our babies become people. Looking back, I realize now that that's where I needed the most guidance. I saw those kids at Target pestering their moms through every aisle to buy a toy and seeing her finally give in. I realized I didn't want that to be my kid. But wanting isn't enough. I should have learned what to do to prevent these powerful children. They do not just happen. We create them. Dr. Lehman shows that parents who pay attention can avoid power struggles, even with strong-willed kids, by empathizing as they set limits, giving choices, and clearly offering respect.
If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't lay next to the crib until my baby fell asleep (because he needed to learn to fall asleep on his own).
If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have cut the crusts off my daughter's bread when she wouldn't eat her sandwich (because she needed to see that life isn't perfect).
If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have given in just because my kids kept pestering me (because I just taught them to keep pestering me until they get what they want).
Parenting Your Powerful Child is very powerful in itself. It made me see how we create power struggles with our kids as early as toddlers. It's important that we address it early because powerful toddlers become powerful high schoolers and then powerful adults.
You can't be too permissive as then your children will walk all over you. But neither can you be too authoritative as then you are in a constant power struggle with your child. The goal is to parent with care and respect. We set the tone in our family.
Here are a few tips that I took from the book...
1) Make your child feel like part of the family. He does not rule the roost but it is not a dictatorship either. Have family meetings and let everyone feel heard. Try to show him / her how his requests affect the rest of the family.
2) All kids want attention. If we can find the time to give them some positive attention, they may not need to act out for the negative attention.
3) Don't give in. No matter what. Once you have said no, stick to it (even if you realized you should have said yes). Once you give in, they will forever wear you down until you crumble.
4) Respond rather than react. Yes, he is pushing your buttons. Take a deep breath and respond in a calm manner. You set the boundaries but you do not need to get caught up in his/her emotional hurricane.
5) It takes two to tango. Really, don't you need two people to fight? Don't engage in the ugly behavior. Simply walk away until the child is ready to speak to you in a calm manner. You do not have to attend every argument that you are invited to!
So, I've been working very hard to say what I mean and follow through with what I say. I'm working to stay calm and not engage in their chaos. Personality wise, I am the permissive parent. I am the peace keeper. But I am not doing my kids any good by giving them everything that they want and always keeping the peace. This is parenting. It's not my job to be their best bud. It's my job to show them right from wrong, to be a good role model and to show that we love them unconditionally. I've realized that even I was using language that fueled my powerful children. "What is wrong with you?" "Absolutely not!" "Because I'm the parent". My goal is not to go from permissive parent to authoritarian parent. My goal is to parent with love, care and boundaries.
I'm lucky to have powerful kids. If parented with love, they can be the movers and shakers of this world. The goal is to set that power in the right direction! We need to look for win/win solutions rather than just laying down the law. Not only will this keep down the explosions, it will actually teach them respect and the fine art of compromise.
Side note: I try not to talk about my kids in my writing as I don't want them labeled or called out. I have amazing kids!! I have no problem sharing my shortcomings and challenges as I want to help others!