My toddler has blessed us with yet another episode of defiance. In the morning, he insisted on staying home instead of heading out the door, and no amount of coercing or encouraging was making him budge. Even though I managed to get him out into the hallway, he was determined to stay put and literally plopped himself down on the floor. Now, I normally lug this heavy tote bag with all his books, clothes, our lunches and my purse, and was in no mood to carry a moody kid down to the car as well. The clock was ticking, my patience dwindling, and the tote bag wasn’t getting any lighter.
So, being the amazing mom that I am, I became the scene I never thought I would find myself in: I half-dragged my toddler on the floor for a few steps before acceding to carrying him (and the heavy bag) on to the elevator.
I am officially one of “those” moms. You know, the moms with loud and hysterical kids that you can’t help but tsk tsk about in your head. The kind where you assume that they spoil their kids rotten, and if that were my kid there’s no way in hell I would allow that sort of delinquency. I became the drag-the-crying-kid mom.
Now, I could place the blame on so many circumstances. I could point the finger at his emerging teeth and how teething has been bothering him. I could say that lack of sleep on my part made me one tired mama. I could also blame it on our temperaments, and just how confounding it is that two, laid-back parents could produce one heck of a fireball (ask my family and they’ll tell you I was so quiet, compliant, and—I’m not sure if this is a compliment or not—“Just there, like a plant.”). All of the apply.
And yet. Perhaps I forget to see the world from my toddler’s perspective:
- I forget that I have choices and can make them easily (“I feel like eating cereal today”) whereas my toddler doesn’t (He eats what I place in front of him). He doesn’t always get to decide what clothes to wear; nor does he understand why we have to leave at a certain time on certain days.
- I fail to remember that he may not have reached developmental milestones that enable him to manage his emotions as he sorts through more and more of them every day.
- With his onslaught of new words and impressive grammar use, I overlook that he still has a long ways to go and can’t always express himself as clearly as I can.
- And he may possibly be at that age where he is grappling with the realization that the world actually doesn’t revolve around him, and that he is but one person in an abundance of others, pushing him to assert himself all the more.
In the afternoon, I chose to do better. I even mentally skimmed through this blog, calling to mind the posts I’ve written that might help. For instance:
- I put this situation in perspective and reassured myself that this frustration will pass, and that for the most part, he is actually a well-behaved boy.
- I picked my battles. If he wanted to wear his bib all evening long, I let him. I reserved the battles for more important issues like safety and hygiene.
- However, I also didn’t give in to unreasonable requests. If he demanded to use my slippers even though I needed to wear them to walk around the kitchen, I calmly told him, “I need my slippers to walk around, and when I go back to sitting, then you can play with them.” Similarly, if he kept switching between wants—he wants his hat on, only to want it off a second later—I ignored him. This kind of behavior didn’t seem to warrant attention and perhaps even grew worse because of it.
- Similarly, I praised his good behavior. When he was in his normally good mood, I praised his actions: “Look at you, coloring your paper!” I gave tons of hugs and kisses and laughed at all his corny jokes.
- I gave him choices when possible. When it was time to put on his jacket, I held up his white and brown ones and had him decide which one he’d like to wear.
- I encouraged good manners so that if he shouted “Don’t want that!” I responded with, “You can say, ‘No, thank you’.” And when he did, he said it in a much calmer tone (for the most part).
- I apologized for my behavior. Toddlers aren’t the only ones who misbehave. I wanted to apologize so he knows I make mistakes too, and that I truly feel terrible for disrespecting him.
This episode reminded me that I’m just as susceptible to reacting immaturely and in ways I wouldn’t be proud of as any other parent. That even after practicing mindful parenting and remaining calm on most days, I too can make mistakes and lose my patience. And perhaps most importantly, I realized that “those” moms are probably just like me—terrific, caring moms who have bad days once in a while, just like their toddlers.
When have you resorted to acting less-than-stellar with your kids? How did you resolve the situation?