Today I found myself locked in a battle with my three- (almost four-) year-old over the need to go potty before going down for a nap. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this happen to you, but you get an idea in your head about what you want your child to do, and your child has a completely different idea. These two ideas are completely opposed to each other, but there isn’t one with clearly better merits than the other.
That’s what happened to me today.
I was intent on my son going to the bathroom before going down for his nap, even though he insisted that he didn’t need to go. Here are the three things I was reminded of today:
1. Threats Are Often Our First Resort
I threatened taking away all sorts of things he loves, and still he wouldn’t budge. Later, my wife (and his mother) asked me why I was so stuck on that particular outcome, and honestly I didn’t have a good answer. Sometimes parents just get stuck on something, and we end up in a headlock with our kids for no good reason.
Later, after he was in bed for his nap, I was able to gain some perspective and realized that my position on the issue was not inherently more logical or valid than his. We were both just stuck in our way of doing something in the moment and locked in a battle to win.
2. Our Kids Aren’t Always Wrong, And We’re Not Always Right
This is the essence of so many altercations with a young child. We have one idea, and they have another. The difference between it turning into a knock-down, drag-out fight or ending positively is often the willingness of one party to the argument to realize that there is a way other than “my way.” And generally, it’s the parent who has to come to this conclusion, because the parent has the emotional maturity to calm down and recognize the gridlock that’s occuring.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes kids just have to do what we say. But much of the time our instructions are arbitrary or not well though-out, and if we lock down on those ideas and refuse to hear what our kids have to say, we’ll create unnecessary conflict and discord in our homes where it simply isn’t needed.
3. Parents Have to be More Mature Than Their Kids
One of the biggest challenges to great parenting, is finding the maturity to be mindful of our own arbitrary whims and wishes so that we recognize when we are placing unfair demands on our kids. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a spouse who can call you out on it when you get stuck in this place – as my amazing wife did today.
Remember: every conflict is a moment to teach, and as you’re battling it out with your kids, try to stop long enough to ask: “What am I trying to teach in this moment?” If you don’t have a good answer, then it’s probably not worth continuing to fight about.