The following exchange took place a week or so ago when my oldest was refusing to do something I needed her to do in order for us to get out of the house to run some errands.
Me: “Nora, you are making me very mad right now.”
Nora: “Mommy, you are making ME very mad right now.”
And she kind of had a point. One that I really couldn’t argue with. And there in lies one of the biggest challenges I see when it comes to parenting. You don’t expect such wise and insightful things to come from your 3 year old’s mouth. And when they do, it throws you off, but it also makes you think… and sometimes laugh.
In this particular moment, I couldn’t fault her. I had an agenda to run errands. She had an agenda to go outside on the deck and play. Why was my need greater than hers? Yes, I have responsibilities that I need to attend to and I am the parent so she should do what I say. Or should she?
On this day, I went from requesting that she get ready to bulldozing over her attempts to express her own needs to me. Which as she so effectively stated, really only led to both of us ending up angry at the other.
As a parent we have an obligation to teach our children how to be decent human beings. This does not entail teaching them only to do what they are told. I really do try to listen to what my children are saying and give them choices when possible, but I am definitely also guilty of the “my way or else” mentality that so many parents fall prey to. But, when we listen and recognize them as people, we teach them respect. We give them the most valuable lesson of all in seeing worth in each other, regardless of our role in the family.
I don’t want my parenting style to be a dictatorship. In this particular situation, she effectively stopped me in my tracks. I acknowledged her feelings, gave her a hug and asked her what she thought we should do about this problem. She said the following:
“Maybe we could go to the store and when we come home we can go on a walk so I can ride my bike. That would make both of us so happy.”
And so we did.