If you have been reading my blog for more than a day, I am sure it has come up or you realize that I have a pretty strong willed and opinionated four year old! She has been exercising her strong will starting at 9 months. That is just her personality and especially now with the polar opposite in her brother I made even more aware of her opinions. We love that she is opinionated, a leader and we pray daily that we know how to encourage it, foster it and teach her without making her an obedient child. We don't want a child that just says "yes" all the time, we want her opinions, her views but we want her to respect authority and learn humility when she needs to.
When she was younger until recently we implemented the teachings found in a book called, 1-2-3 Magic, as recommended by my sister who has seen it work in the classroom setting. We loved it! It was consistent, easy for whoever was around her to implement, clear and taught her the boundaries and rules in a consistent, easy to understand way with known consequences. We would still have our bad days but for the most part we had a good system going as long as we stayed consistent and not giving in even a tiny bit. We felt that we were doing well. At first we were always getting to three and always doing timeouts but eventually timeouts were rare.
And then she turned four....I don't know where the shift happened but it did and our 1-2-3 Magic system was not working anymore. I was feeling frustrated because I felt that she was disobey simple rules that she knew were wrong (hitting her brother, not sharing, talking back) and that everything was SO DRAMATIC! So much yelling and crying and being so emotional over being told "no" or "stop." We decided to read another book called Have a New Kid by Friday that some friends had been reading and it was working for them. We read it and felt that it wasn't right for Peyton and for us and that most of the behavior she was demonstrating wasn't falling into any of the categories that were discussed. I didn't know what was the reason for this shift but something was happening and something was causing her to feel like she needed to react the way she was.
Then one day I read an article on Parenting Your Strong Willed Child, that someone pinned on Pinterest and it was like a light bulb came on for us. I clearly saw Peyton in each of the points that were being made/discussed and could see so many examples from our day that could have been less dramatic if I took some of the approaches that were mentioned.
What we really saw was that know that before she needed strict rules and no discussion. It helped keep her safe, taught boundaries and she couldn't handle more than, "no," but now that she is at an age where she can articulate how she feels and can understand more about why things are the way they are, we are entering into a phase of our relationship where we need to communicate more. Yes, the answer sometimes will be, "because I am the mom/dad and this is how it is," but that doesn't need to be all the time.
"Research 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. Adopting a policy of looking for win/win solutions rather than just laying down the law keeps strong-willed children from becoming explosive and teaches them essential skills of negotiation and compromise."
After reading the article, and some additional prayer, discussions here are some of the takeaways that we are now implementing with Peyton and have seen an incredible difference.....
- Giving Peyton more ownership. Such as having her pick out her outfit for school out of the two I place out the night before, or having her remember to bring things that she wants when we go out (like a specific snack) among other things.
- Giving her more choices whenever we can. We always gave her choices in clothing, shoes and often at lunch time but we are also looking for other places such as...we have to go to school, "would you like to ride your bike, walk etc." I find that the more opportunities I put in her life for me to say "yes" to then when I do say "no" she responds better and understands that I am not just saying it to say it.
- Avoiding power struggles/opposition when possible and increase the listening on my part and the dialogue on Peyton's side. For example, one day she wanted to use a certain pack of stickers that she found in her sticker box but I accidentally put them in there and they were meant for scrap booking/craft projects for me. Instead of just telling her no and entering into a battle with her about using the stickers, I was able to talk with her through it. I acknowledged that I made a mistake and they shouldn't have been in there, I asked what emotions she was feeling and acknowledged them and then explained why we were not using them. After our conversation, she just said, "ok," and went on her way with no issues. Maybe to some parents it seems simple but for me it is a new phase of our relationship and new way of handling things and right now it is what we needed and is working. I heard someone call it "feelings first explanations," basically acknowledging feelings and empathizing before giving excuses/explanations. At many times this doesn't work and the response is, "because I am your mom and that is the rule," but when I can I seek to be more initial in starting having dialogues with her about feelings and opinions
Still a work in progress and the article goes into so many more things to consider but I have noticed a difference and found that this is a new phase of discipline and a good balance that allows me to be have rules/discipline and a sternness with Peyton without undermining her personality and giving it opportunities to grow in the appropriate ways. Hope this helps someone....and if not....at least it is a documentation on where we are with our child raising!