There was a battle. (Actually, there were lots of battles.)
It was ugly. (Battles are always ugly.)
I’m not sure how the spaghetti reached the ceiling. I mean, after all, how far can you realistically throw at fifteen months?
How can a child whose favorite food was spaghetti until ten minutes ago, suddenly decide that they will never eat it again????
Or, there was a silly dollar toy in the grocery aisle off-handedly denied; and it was my toddler laying on the floor kicking, screaming, and thrashing. I stood completely bewildered by the moment, unbelievably mortified. I tried pleading quietly with a beyond-reason, pint-sized tyrant while smug shoppers stared, passed by, and gave each other the “look”.
We’ve all been there, (probably both on the smug side and the bewildered side if we’re honest).
The most frightening of the battles comes with the cold, steely-eyed stare, and frozen jaw from a teen with a rebel idea locked between their teeth. You wonder….. how did we ever get to this place?
The truth is we’ve all experienced the tyranny of the urgent, the embarrassment of the behavior, and the capitulation of defeat. Sometimes it helps just to know that you aren’t alone.
What’s a mom to do?
What really matters?
When do you plant your flag, and refuse to move; and when do you retreat to return and fight another day?
Before we start, it’s important to note that a lot of toddler issues are just developmental. Occasional meltdowns are normal. Ignore the looks. I guarantee you there isn’t a mom alive whose children haven’t mortified them at some point. If your child is embarrassing you, all it means is that you are in good company. Toddlers teach us all humility. Repetitive behaviors are the issue to be concerned about, not the occasional dramatic performance. I was convinced that some of my children were destined for the stage.
It seems to me by definition that most of these “moments” occur when it’s least convenient, or when you really really really need your children to behave. The best preventative for this is…..
- Prepare them ahead of time.
Whenever you can, prepare your kids for what they are going to face. Let them know that you are in a hurry, or that they will not be getting anything on this shopping trip etc. Explain to them what is expected of them before they are confronted with a new situation. Don’t just arrive at the dentist and expect them to open their mouth. You may find them afflicted with “lockjaw”, also known as …. these are my teeth and I don’t show them to people with sharp instruments that smell funny. (No I’m not poking at dentists, I love my dentist. But dental offices often smell of cloves from dental medications and you can bet your kids notice)
Explanation and preparation seems especially important for cooperation in preschool years, but it really matters all the way through. Even your college kid will benefit from preparation for the onslaught the college environment will present to their faith and core values. Actually, they will benefit from everything from what to do when their roommate gets lice…. to an introduction to Mr. Washing-Machine (if they aren’t already aquainted).
Prepare… prepare… prepare, and….
Always deal straight with your kids. Be reliable and consistent. Tell the truth. In order to ensure that your preparation works, kids need to know that what you say can be trusted.
4. Love them lavishly.
Remember how hard it was to be a kid? How scary it was sometimes, and how much some things hurt? Remember how hard it was to fight temptation, and how easily you could be confused?
Love your kids.
Love them lavishly.
They need it.
Love soothes the hurts, imparts courage, and most of all it ties the heart. It’s easy to get distracted and start thinking that child rearing is primarily about obedience. It’s not. Child rearing is about the heart, and winning their hearts. It takes lavish love to win a heart and hold it.
That battle for their heart is the one you really need to win.