Senstivity strained by boundary pushing

by Scylla on May 27, 2008

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Responding with sensitivity. Keeping everyone’s dignity in tact. Using positive reinforcement and active listening instead of punishment and negative reaction. All of these practices are something I firmly believe in. I believe children are incentivized to behave well when their needs are met, their work praised, and their failures patiently worked through, instead of harped on. I believe in teaching my children about consequences, instead of punishing them for their actions. I am a big believer in patient parenting.

And then I met six.

Six has strained my relationship with my daughter, my role as an attachment parent, and all my fancy new fangled parenting skills. How exactly does one parent with patience during daily doses of the following:

“Mom! Can we play on the playground?”

“I’m sorry honey but not today, it’s raining.”

“Awww… but I want to! Just for a minute?”

“No dear, the playground is all wet and we need to get in out of the rain.”

“I don’t mind if I get wet. I want to play on the playground.”

“I understand that you do, but the answer is no.”

“But I never get to play on the playground!!”

“Monkey, you have played on the playground every day this week. Today it is raining. We are not playing on the playground in the rain.”

“Can I just go see if the playground is wet before we go?”

“No, clearly the playground is wet if it is raining. We are not staying, we are getting in out of the rain.”

“But I won’t play on it, I just want to look at it!”

“Monkey, you have asked me at least five times, I have answered no each time. There will not be a change in my answer. If you ask me again I will have to take away a privilege. Do you understand me?”

eyerolling “Yes” sigh “I wish I could play on the playground.”

It is enough to drive all notions of attachment parenting right out the window. To make things worse, if I ask her a question she doesn’t want to answer, she will just pretend I never spoke. It has gotten to the point where both my husband and I will reassuringly say “It’s okay honey, I heard you, you did actually speak out loud.”

What is a parent to do? I am trying not to envision my child with ugly green horns and bulbous spots when this behavior rears its ugly head, but I go not have endless reserves of patience. I can’t just turn off all my feelings and not react, even though I know her behavior is developmental, that she is testing her individuality and my boundaries. I know she is not out to get me, but it’s hard to know that in the middle of an argument.

I thought I would share a few of the coping methods I have attempted to employ in staying calm in the face of her powerful persistence.

1. Hum The Girl from Ipanema in my head and imagine I am all alone in an elevator that no one, especially my arguing child, can get into.

2. Envision myself on a beach drinking an icy cold fru-fru drink while a massage therapist works all the argument caused knots out of my shoulder.

3. Remind myself that calm and consistent responses will make a strong and healthy child.

4. Take a deep breath and warn Monkey that she is about to make me very angry. “Honey, I am getting very frustrated, if this continues, I may yell at you.”

If those don’t work I try to forgive myself for yelling, and her for pushing. I also try to apologize for losing my cool, and explain to her why I did. I use I statements when doing so; “I am sorry I yelled, I was feeling like you weren’t listening to me, and that was frustrating for me.” Usually she will apologize too, and we will hug, and the day will go on. On really bad days, we just have a fight, and then I lock myself in the bathroom alone for twenty solid minutes (after hubby is home) and either: read a book, do my nails, or take a long hot shower so I can recover some of my resources.

What do you do to stay calm in the face of unbelievable, epic persistence? What techniques do you use to keep your cool and respond with sensitivity? I would love it if all of you would share your ideas with me in the comments. I think we can all parent more patiently if we have a larger arsenal to draw from.

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Scylla (18 Posts)

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

erin May 27, 2008 at 6:21 pm

i love all of these suggestions. right now i am dealing with my 1st born who is 14 months. she is beginning to test me. how do you reason with a 14mth old? tonight she pulled to oven door down to open it. (it was not hot) i went to her and told her no it was hot and i didnt want her to get hurt and that i loved her. i put her down and she immed walked over and opened it again so i put her in time out. i know neither did any good. what would you do with that age?


API Speaks May 27, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Erin, my favorite discipline technique (dare I say the only one I consistently used) for my children when they were that age was distraction. According to Dr Sears, children between 12-24 months have the mobility to get into all types of trouble and, at the same time, lack the ability to control their impulses.

So in your situation, your daughter is physically able to open the oven door, and fascinated by this new skill. At the same time, she’s completely unable to remember that she’s not supposed to touch it and no amount of asking, reasoning, or time outs will help her remember until she’s old enough (sometime between age 2-3) to remember and control her impulse to touch it.

So when she starts heading for the oven, move her to another room, distract her with a cuddle or a favorite toy, and be prepared to do that over and over again as she explores her surroundings and finds all kinds of new things to get into!

Good luck 🙂


Scylla May 27, 2008 at 7:28 pm

I agree with the advice here. With kiddos your age the only thing is distraction. They are really too young to get it.
I understand your frustration though, my youngest is 14 months and his favorite “toy” in the house is the toilet.
Yeah… so that’s fun. I spend my whole day shutting doors to the bathroom and yanking him away from the potty.

Maybe you can gate off that part of the kitchen, with something you can step over?


pixie May 28, 2008 at 7:34 am

Littlepixie is 18 months and we’re also in the “testing boundaries” phase, this is a whole new experience for me, she’s keeping me on my toes!


Summer May 28, 2008 at 4:56 pm

Your six sounds a lot like my four. He’s a big ball of persistence, which both amazing and annoying. No one will ever tell him he can’t do something, however that also means I can’t tell him that we can’t go ride bikes in a thunderstorm. LOL

Great suggestions!


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