I watched a young child outsmart his mother today to get exactly what he wanted, despite her wish that he just would go back to his room and play. He walked toward her asking for something to eat. She offered what she had left in her package of chips but that wasn’t good enough. He helped himself to the stash that required money and walked back triumphantly leaving her to pay for his pleasure.
I’m familiar with her emotion. It’s when you need to hear what the doctor is saying while your child is pushing and pulling on your purse. It’s when the television is playing something you want to see and your child wants to ask you for something for the third time. It’s when you are on the phone and your precious little one decides now is the time to reach for that forbidden fruit you just put out of her reach.
I’m just trying to talk here; I’m just trying to listen; I’m just trying to see the TV; so okay! Anything as long as you will just be quiet!
The child wins. Bested the superior intellect. Outsmarted decades of experience. Beat the bigger adult.
We come by this desire to meet the needs of our children naturally. From the time he was born, we listened for his cries and even his whimpers. We dropped whatever we were doing and went to her aid. We awoke from a deep sleep because he was hungry.
Maybe he came by it naturally as well. After spending the first year of life having a capable, loving adult meet every need as if on schedule, our child appreciates our attention to detail. We have performed as a highly skilled waiter, coming immediately when called and bringing whatever might be needed to cure hunger, thirst, discomfort and even boredom.
A child cannot be spoiled during the first year of life. They rightfully request our immediate attention to their every need. We are the adult; they are the child in need. I would venture to say that parents of toddlers and above can very clearly remember the day they caught a little smirk on the face of a child and realized they had just been played. Gotcha! They did that on purpose!!
I know your greatest fear. You sincerely believe that if you don’t give in and give them what they want the noise will continue and become unbearable. Then those around you will know you are a horrible parent and wish you could learn how to be smarter than a two-year-old. Is that about right?
How can parents avoid being bested by a two-year-old? Allow the first thought that comes into your head to remind you of what to do. You think to yourself, “This kid is wearing me out!” Right! It’s time for a good dose of Love and Logic energy drain. You must turn the tables. It’s time to get needy yourself. “Oh, that really drains my energy,” you say. They may continue to demand what they want or you might already have their attention. Then you say, “I’m afraid you will have to do something to replace all that energy that just left me.”
Hopefully there is something they need that they haven’t asked you for yet. When they ask to go to practice or to use the iPad or to go to a friend’s house, you can remind them that you just don’t have enough energy to make that happen right now. How sad; maybe next time. Maybe after they do a few chores to let you rest and replace your energy.
Whatever you do, don’t continue to parent your toddler and especially your elementary school child as if they were an infant. It’s time for them to grow up. If they need encouragement, it’s time to demand a little encouragement of your own.