I’m finally finishing Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles. I started reading it about a year ago when Avi and I were going through a particularly trying time. I never finished it because I was able to apply the first half so readily that our situation improved right away and we moved on.
Life has gotten rough again. She’s almost three. And, boy, is she three. All my mom-friends agree that they don’t understand why everyone gripes about the Terrible Twos when the Threes are far Worse.
For those of you who don’t remember, or are new readers, let me fill you in on my peanut:
- She is what people call a “spirited” child.
- She is absurdly precocious and has been speaking in complete sentences and holding entire comprehensible conversations for so long now that I can barely remember her as a non-speaker.
- She has the ability to remember visual details. She never fell for “out of sight, out of mind,” even as an infant.
- She has a loooooooong attention span and can play the same game for over an hour.
- She needs to feel she finished what she’s doing before she can move on and has a very hard time with transitions.
- Emotionally, she’s exactly where she should be. This makes it hard because the adults around her can forget that even though she can speak like a four year old and plays pretend like a five year old, she still is a two year old.
- She has really good logical thinking skills which drives me crazy because everything that can become a negotiation becomes a negotiation.
- She does not sleep readily. At almost three, she finally sleeps through the night but can still take an hour to fall asleep and crawls into bed with me by dawn. She does not nap.
So, now we’re back to today and the fact that I’m almost done with this book. It’s been very helpful. It uses the Myers-Briggs personality spectrums to help you identify your own strengths and challenges as well as your childs. So, you can see where the interactions are beneficial and where it can cause communication (and patience) to break down.
For example, we both feel the need to “finish” things. I can find it hard to set something down and pay attention to Avi even when she needs it most. However, now that I’ve identified this issue, I can consciously say to myself “my child needs attention. If I give it to her for these two minutes, she will feel loved and satisfied and then I will return to this task.” And, voila, it has worked wonders. This step alone has meant far fewer time struggles.
And then there was today. The elongated steps of my Thinking Child:
- She spent the morning in a new situation with a babysitter and then we went to two different grocery stores before we came home for lunch. We were both tired. I promised her that after I picked up the kitchen clutter we would play.
- She became a bunny and hopped around my feet, chipped in a little, and then climbed under the table to make it her home. All was good.
- She then tried to “tie” the cushions back on the two kitchen seats. She actually does manage to tie things sometimes so she did one successfully and was close enough with the second that she was okay with it. But then she got to the second cushion and lost.her.shit.
- I responded that she needed to use her big girl words to ask for help, “Mama, can you please help me tie the cushion?” but screaming and yelling was not a choice. And so it began.
- She whined, “puhhleeassse?!?!”
- I replied, “please, what?” Saying the word ‘please’ in a whiny voice isn’t enough. Use your big girl words and ask for help, “Mama, Please help me tie the cushion.”
- And she exploded. And I negotiated and she kept intermittently screaming. I proclaimed I’d had enough with the crying. And she kept going.
- It was then I remembered that there is a difference between ‘negotiating’ and ‘coaching’ so I knelt down in front of her, made eye contact and gave her three choices, “I see that you are angry. 1 – You can go to your room and keep crying. 2 – You can take a break by sitting on the couch, playing, take a breath, or read a book and come back and try the cushion when you’re ready. 3 – You can use your big girl words and ask for help. “
- She responded by saying she didn’t like choices and breaks. “I can see that you are angry and having trouble making a decision. If you need it, I can help you decide.” I re-iterated the options to which she said she’d read a book with me.
- I stuck to my guns and said that she would have to read alone because I wasn’t done in the kitchen to which she replied that she would take a break on the couch watching a movie.
- “You may not watch a movie. You may read a book.”
- This went on for I don’t know how long. I’m sure I also threatened to make the choice for her, of course, that’s not what this book advises nor does it ever work but it always comes out of my mouth. Eventually, we ended up on the couch reading a book after I assured her she had already used her big girl words to express the need for me to be with her.
- We read a book together, which I prefaced with the fact that I would have to finish the kitchen after this book and then we would play as promised. Which I did.
- Here’s where it gets funny: It is now an hour later. We are upstairs playing together. I have taken a minute to put a shirt in a drawer while she is lacing some beads. She gleefully proclaims, “I have decided to use my big girl words and ask for you to tie on the cushion!”
- I said, “great! Let’s do it! Ask away!”
- She leads me down the stairs, explaining that as soon as we get to the kitchen she will use her big girl words to ask me to tie on the cushions.
- We arrive in the kitchen, she races to the chair, she asks me nicely, and I tie on the cushion.
- It took my child an entire hour to process. An entire hour.
Now I understand how it is that I, someone who is possibly one of the most patient people alive, can lose my temper so frequently with this child.