Battle Of Wills

Raising a kid is as hard as it is rewarding. It just is. I love being a mom, and I love both my girls, but there are times when I've got no clue what to do next. Totally at a loss, and NOT feeling in control of the situation. That's pretty much how the past year and a half has gone. Me, not in charge and even a little scared of my very willful 3 year old.

A few of my mom friends and I had a "ladies night" last month, and at the end of the evening I had a chance to commiserate with the mom of a "spirited," as she calls him, 3 year old. Like me, she'd been feeling at her wit's end for a long time. She mentioned a book called "Raising Your Spirited Child" that had helped her accept her son's sometimes challenging personality. Later I looked at the reviews online and decided on a similar book that was purported to give useful, practical tactics for dealing with my child, "Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child: Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries" by Robert J. MacKenzie, Ed.D.

"Setting Limits" is exactly what I needed. I love this book. LOVE it. Looking back, I realize that there has been far too much cajoling, persuading, bargaining, rescuing, and overlooking. I mean, when the only way you can get your kid to take a bath is to make up a fantastic story, complete with funny voices and theme songs, and your kid STILL screams and flails...And when you avoid asking your child to pick up her toys because you know you'll have to ask her 400 times and she will ignore you and then end up in a crying fit while YOU pick up the toys...And when you have to put a door handle lock on your child's bedroom because she won't stay in bed, and she responds by kicking and body-slamming the door and screaming loud enough to make the neighbors wonder...And when you try so hard to work things through and talk it out and try again and then end up so enraged that you are this close to spanking, which you are totally opposed to...Not so good.

Reading "Setting Limits," I've discovered that my temperament and Sophia's are quite opposite. She's definitely strong-willed, and I'm the compliant type. That's probably why Sophia has been a mystery to me. I'd been assuming that she, like me, would want to obey Mommy because it's the nice thing to do. But alas, my strong-willed girl wants to do things HER way, when SHE wants to, and because SHE says so. Yikes. No wonder I haven't been feeling like I'm in charge. I guess I haven't been.

So, now I have tactics for dealing with Sophia—tactics that work for her temperament. When it's time to clean up, she needs me to say: "It's time to put these toys away before you do anything else. If you don't clean them up, I will need to take them away for the rest of the day." Or this: "It's time to go to school. I'm setting the timer for 5 minutes and then you need to be ready. If you are not ready, you will not be bringing your favorite toy to school." Here's another good one: "It's time to get ready for your bath. If there is any screaming or fighting, you will have a time out when the bath is over." And time outs are with a timer. Three minutes, unlike my previous system of, "You can come out when you are feeling calm, Sweetie." And those are just a few of the clear, firm, and respectful tools I've pulled from the book.

It's been a month of using the methods in "Setting Limits," and I can honestly say that I really feel in control. I say what I mean; I mean what I say; and Sophia knows it. I think she feels more secure now that Mommy has taken charge. Our relationship seems much stronger and more loving. And I know she is aware of the change. I recently heard her tell Cassidy,"If you put my toy in your mouth, then I will have to take it away from you. OK, you put it in your mouth, so now I'm taking it away." Um, wow. I swear that was a scenario straight out of the book. It's working!


Great post Amy! I will have to remember that book. I LOVE that Sophia has now implemented the same tactics with Cassidy. So funny!

That's awesome, Amy! Clear, simple instructions with limits and consequences that you stick to are the key. It won't always be easy, but it's certainly easier! :) Kids truly thrive on consistency and set boundaries....they feel safer and more secure. I've heard people say that they're afraid that by setting strict limits they aren't allowing their child freedom to explore and learn, but it's just the opposite...when they know the guidelines for their behavior, they feel more comfortable exploring their world. :) Good luck, dear!

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