I am, by nature, a fairly passive parent. I try not to let the little stuff get to me and I am very picky about my battles. If I can let it go, I do. I do set boundaries when it comes to safety and at times I’m just not able to be as carefree as I wish but, for the most part, I try to guide my children instead of leading them. Politically, I’m a libertarian, and I hold those same beliefs in my home and my parenting. I only get involved when I have to.
Both of my sons have intense curiosity, drive, determination, desire, persistence and individuality. All wonderful traits in adults, but all rather challenging in toddlers. Neither of my sons are good listeners. My youngest, at two and a half, has some barriers with a delay in receptive language, but he certainly knows what “no” means and listens about half of the time. My older son, four years old, is pleasantly oppositional. You’ve maybe never seen anytihng like it in your life. I might say, “Landon, please get your shoes.” To which he kindly responds, “No, please” and despite all my commands and coaxing, if he doesn’t want his shoes, he is not going to get them. Sure, I can make him, and at times I have, but nowadays I just take him wherever we’re going shoeless and pack a pair. My youngest, Corbin, tips the garbage over whenever he’s mad. So like, 28 times a day my garbage goes flying. First, shame on me for not coming up with a different garbage storage plan, but alas, this is my life. So I say, “Corbin is Mad…You are mad mad mad. You spilled Mommy’s garbage. That makes me sad!” Near as I can tell he doesn’t mind making me sad. I clean it up, and life goes on. When we are not dealing with tantrums or oppositional behavior we are likely dancing to Mary Poppins, playing on our swing set, reading books together or enjoying what we have come to know as family life. I won’t lie, I cry a lot. My kids push me to the edge, and I dangle off the cliff of sanity wondering if I will survive…but then, in an unexpected moment, they show me kindness, compassion, love, and gratitude; they show me that I haven’t failed, that they are learning and growing, and my feet land on solid ground.
Well, when my children aren’t quite up to behaving – and I’m sure I don’t help by looking overwhelmed and stressed by the situation – somehow we really draw in advice. I don’t ask for it and, despite the fact that most people who offer it are those I don’t trust to leave my child with long enough for me to go to the bathroom, people still chime in.
What do I hear the most from the unsolicited advice I receive for my “unruly” toddlers? “He just wants attention. He is only testing you.” And to that I say…Good! I hope he is testing me. I hope he is pushing to find the boundaries and see what is acceptable and what happens when he does not conform, and I hope he finds that no matter how unreasonable people are, it is always best to find a peaceful answer. I hope he learns that persistence gets him what he wants. I hope he sees that my love for him is unconditional. I hope he understand tolerance. I hope he believes that being stronger or smarter than someone does not give him a right to bully them and, most of all, I hope he knows love.
I spend more time looking at my own behavior than theirs because, let’s be honest, who are they learning from?
It’s far too soon to tell if I’m onto something, and I’ve been told that my “laxed” parenting will spoil them and for a while that thought really bothered me. Then one day I realized that of all the things that could be “wrong” with a person, bratty, was not even in my top 10. Besides, I’m pretty sure that my boys are going to grow up to be fine young men that make the world a better place.
I don’t for a minute mind a more authoritative parenting style. Each child is different and parents want different things, but to anyone who has been confused by my sweat and tears…I’m tired, it’s hard, and sometimes I feel defeated, but at the end of the day…I’m really proud of my boys and my parenting!
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.