We have the classic set up in our household. Daddy tends to be bad cop, while good cop Mommy gets the sobs and doe eyes. I’m really not sure how we got to this point, because I thought I had made a conscious effort to keep us equally tough and equally soft.
It works well for my husband. He can tell her no and she will listen. He can ask her to do something and she does it. He can put her in time-out and she stays. However, he can also play house, have tea parties and cuddle on the couch watching TV with bows in his hair. Somehow, he found that balance.
I know this is fairly common. I have talked to many of my more experienced mom friends who confirm that Daddy tends to be the heavy in their house and that the kids listen better to him with less effort. Yet our current situation seems to go beyond that.
The problem we’re facing right now, is whether or not she respects me. I know she loves me. There is absolutely no question there. Sometimes she snuggles for hours, drops everything to give me a hug is she thinks I need it or holds my face in her hands to tell me say, “I love you Mama.” She is a tiny bundle of the sweetest emotions and I couldn’t ask for a more affectionate child.
But does she respect me?
My husband theorizes that she sees me as an equal. That although she knows I am her Mama, I am more of a playmate or source of comfort than an actual authoritative parent. Granted, our only real experience prior to this has been as dog parents, but it was largely accurate. As a puppy our german shepherd, Rinnie, obeyed Adam and bit me. We had a trainer out who demonstrated that Rinnie saw Adam as the ‘alpha’, but she equated me to another ‘puppy.’ We used some techniques to help establish my place in the ‘pack.’
It seems silly to compare raising a child to raising a puppy, but I can’t help feeling like I am back in that situation again. I see this toddler, with near perfect behaviour for her Daddy, while directly disobeying over half of what I say.
This week has been particularly challenging. She is a toddler, so obviously bad days and testing limits is what she does. There are nights I am left counting down to bedtime. I understand that Lilly is at that age. She’ll be three in just over a month and is developing her own opinions and independence. While I want to nurture that and embrace her desire to help with decisions, I know that as her parent, I also need to establish the lines.
What I have noticed over the last few weeks is that she has become more perceptive to what she deems as my poker face. I always said I wouldn’t use empty threats. If I say there will be a consequence, I need to follow through.
Well, a few good cries, hugs and some toddler style promises, and I fold.
Before I know it, I hear myself saying, “ok, you can have it back, but you need to listen to Mama better.” I truly don’t think I ever realized just how often I cave until I started paying closer attention last weekend.
This worries me because as she gets older, I know that Lilly is starting to understand her actions. She is learning the difference between right and wrong and it is my job to make sure I help her develop that sense. I am not going to accomplish that by worrying more about how upset she is with me, than having her learn a specific lesson.
Starting on Monday of this past week, I made sure any consequences I stated were saw through to the end.
“Kick the game one more time and I am going to have to take it away for the night.” She kicked it again and the game when up on top of the china cabinet and no amount of tears got it back down.
“Honey, if you don’t lay down in your bed and stop jumping around, I am not singing any more songs tonight.” She looked at me, smiled and jumped again. I kissed her, told her I loved her and said goodnight. I then walked out of the room. She cried. I felt terrible. Within 3 minutes she stopped crying.
“I asked you to stop ringing the door bell (while standing at the open door at daycare). If I hear it one more time, there will be no shows at bedtime tonight.” Then the door bell rang. There was no shows. This one was epic. Even Daddy almost caved.
|A grainy shot of morning cuddles & kisses. She climbed into bed with us the
morning after the ‘no shows’ night. Toddler version of kiss & make up.
This has not been a fun week.
I learned even more, that my daughter truly is just like me. She is stubborn. She can read people. She is determined to have things her way. To quote my own status update from earlier this week, there are days I see so much of myself in my daughter. Days that involve epic stare downs & battles of wills.
I also learned that this is going to be a process. The more I stick to enforcing my own words, the more she pushes them.
She is testing her boudries. I am trying to hold my own.
It is incredibly frustrating and has left me wanting to tag my partner into the ring more than a few times. However, and I might sound naïve here, I think that if Lilly and I can work together through this, we will both come out stronger as a result.
Ideally speaking, I will have taught her more about respect, while I will gain a bit more patience.