October 12, 2010 § 8 Comments
You pick up any parenting book and you will see a chapter on respecting your child as a person. I took this in without much thought and kept telling myself, “Of course, I respect my kid as a person”. I and my kid (and my family) are struggling through a bad phase right now and only now I realize what respecting your kid really means.
My son is 22 months young, which means he is in his terrible twos. He sees himself as an individual now – no longer a part of mommy. He has realized he has likes, wants, dislikes, needs and whims and fancies. He has suddenly woken up to this wonderful world around where there so many exciting new things and objects and he wants to touch every one of them and play with them. He is learning new things everyday – words, colors, shapes, names and improving his skills – grasping, climbing, jumping, kicking, rolling and what not. He looks at people around and wants to do similar things. He sees his dad touching the calendar to turn a page and he wants to do it too. He sees his mom cutting vegetables and cooking and he wants to do the same.
He is this bundle of energy, ready to take on the world and when he hears someone say ‘No’, that’s when all hell breaks loose. He sees me using the knife and cutting the potatoes. All he asks for is to let him do the same. I promptly say no and he just doesn’t understand why. He asks again and gets a negative response. He cries, I still say no. He stomps his feet, flails his arms and rolls on the ground and that’s when he is given a time-out. He stands in a corner wondering what on earth did he do to be treated like this. And I wonder why he can’t play with things that he is allowed to and why he throws tantrums like this. Why don’t I realize that he is only doing what he is expected to do. He has to explore his world, ask questions, demand things and learn new things. I complain when he is doing exactly that! After some retrospection, I no longer say no to him. It doesn’t mean I let him play with the knife. I don’t use the word ‘No’. I tell him that it’s too dangerous to play with the knife. I show him how sharp it is and how he can get cut. I offer him his toy knife and it sometimes works. If things are really bad, I give him something else in the kitchen, say a spoon. Most of the time, he refuses to take it. I tell him again, “Are you sure you don’t want the spoon? I am keeping it back”. That’s when he takes the spoon and goes on to play.
Dinner time. I am feeding him chapati. Things are going smoothly. We are almost down to the last two bites and he refuses to open his mouth. I tell him nicely to finish it up because it’s only two bites. He refuses. I lose my patience and get upset that my kid is so disobedient – he can’t finish what’s in his plate. He is upset because his mom forces him to eat one more bite even when he is full. Why can’t I respect his opinion and let him go? Why do I insist that he finish his plate? Do I really need to be so strict in disciplining him? Now that I have changed, I no longer insist anything. The moment he says enough, I stop feeding him.
The real lesson on respect came to me at the swimming pool. We have this inflatable pool which Ninad loves to play in. I fill it up with warm water, throw in his bath toys and garden toys and Ninad plays in it for hours together. The natural thing to do next was to introduce him to a real pool. I and my husband took him to the toddler pool and made him stand in it. The next moment, Ninad is out of the pool and crying like made. We both were so shocked. I tried to coax him to get in again but he flatly refused. He insisted that we get back home. We just sat by the pool side, looking at other kids and hoping that Ninad would change his mind. I was disappointed that my son was scared of the pool. All I wanted was for him to play. I kept asking him, begging him, threatening him and nothing worked. We finally came back home dejected. If I look back now, I feel I was so wrong. I should have respected his choice and brought him back home. He is not yet 2 and there is plenty of time for him to play and swim. I should have told him, ‘It’s okay son. We will come to the pool when you are ready’. Which is what I did the next time. I just let him wet his feet and hands. He splashed water here and there and he was mighty happy. And so was I. I asked him once if he wants to get into the pool and when he said no, I didn’t ask him again.
He is not as tall and not as strong as us. He is frustrated that he can’t do the same things that we do. We all sit on the dining chair so easily, while he has to make an effort and climb. We all eat and drink whenever we want. I just have to reach the cookie box on the top shelf and munch away. If Ninad wants a cookie, he needs someone to help him. We all can touch anything we want. For most of the things that he wants, he has to hear no for an answer. And he can’t understand why we say no. If we are in the middle of something, we often ignore his requests. This, for me, is a big no-no. I have made it a point to not ignore him no matter what and have told the same thing to everyone at home. Even if he is asking for something outside his limits, acknowledge his request and then give justification.
I have been following this simple thing for a few days now and I already see a change in Ninad’s behavior. There are fewer tantrums and melt-downs. All it took was a realization that ‘respecting your kid’ is easier said than done.