Let me ask you a question. Who is in charge in your home? I'm not asking about who wears the pants in the family. I'm not asking about whether it's you or your husband. That's another post for another day. I'm asking...is it you or your children? I know your immediate reply will, of course, be that you are in charge because that's the way you are supposed to answer. It's kind of like telling someone that your children are a blessing because you know that is what you are supposed to say, but secretly (or maybe not so secretly) you can't wait for them to go back to school and be as far away from you as possible. Again, that would be another post sometime later. I'm not asking for your polite answer. I'm asking for your REAL answer. If you really dug down deep and took a look at what your words and your actions convey--who's in charge?
I ask this question because more and more as I listen to all the mom-talk around me, I increasingly hear moms who are afraid of their children. They are afraid to say "no." They are afraid to make their children obey. What is the fear from? Is it that we might damage their sensitive little hearts? Children are resilient, and trust me, they need you to say "no" so that they learn about boundaries.
Is the fear that they may not want to be our friend? Last time I checked, I like to hang out with people my age. I don't expect my children to be my friend--yet. I am their mother, not their friend. Friendship will come in time. Right now my job is to teach and train them how to do life and to do it successfully.
Maybe you think that your child does not understand what you are asking of them. Kids are way smarter way earlier than you think. At 10 months old, my children learned how to come when I called them. When your child looks back at you when you call their name and gets that "look" in their eye and bolts the other direction...they know exactly what you are asking of them.
Here's another one...do you give in to whatever your child wants because you are afraid they might throw a humongous tantrum and it might last a really long time? Hmm...well, you are right. They might do that and it might just be right in the middle of aisle 14. Wow, won't that be embarrassing. Wouldn't it be better to have them "put on their show" at home and to teach them that it's not okay in the privacy of your home? Home is your Training Ground, Mama. They are supposed to do those things at home so that you can teach them what is right and appropriate so that when you go into public they don't do those things! The middle of the store is not your Training Ground.
Here's another thought that piggy-backs onto my previous post. If you find that you are having a lot of problems with your child in public--maybe it is time to hunker down at home for awhile to get things under control. I say this because I've had to do it myself. There have been times that we have been so busy that I have not been home long enough to provide that Training Ground for them to work out their issues. That is when I have had to throw everything out the window and stay home and work with my children on what is acceptable behavior. My other commitments can wait. My children and their character, behavior and skills are more important.
So let me get back to that screaming 2-year-old that is pitching a major fit. Let me ask you again, who is in charge here? You, at 31 years-old (I'm making a guess) or the 2-year-old. In my home, IF that were to happen, let me be frank with you, we would no longer be on Training Ground...we would be on Battle Ground. You see, last time I checked I am the mom and that 2-year old is the child. I am older (not to mention bigger) and I am in charge. So that means that if I ask my child to do something, even something as simple as saying "please", they should do it. Remember, I'm the mom and I am in charge. So with those facts stated, it means that I should "win" on the Battle Ground, right? Why in the world would I ever give up The Battle Ground to a 2-year-old? Just because the 2-year-old is screaming really loud, getting red in the face and throwing themselves on the floor...they should win? Hmm...when I explain it this way it seems quite silly to me. A 2-year-old beating out a 31-year-old. Something is wrong with this picture, but yet I see it all the time.
Let me put it to you this way, fellow Mama. You are the Mommy and you should be in charge, so therefore, that means that you should "win." It doesn't matter how long your child can put on their "show." You are the adult and you can go longer. You must establish with your children early on that you are in charge and you will win no matter what they do (or not do). Stop being afraid of your children and stand up and be The Mom!! Do not give in and give them what they want. Give them the opposite of what they want! If they want to go outside--make them stay inside until they can be happy. If they want that toy, but pitch a fit to get it--don't give them that toy, but show them how you expect them to ask for it and have them try to do it correctly over and over again until they can do it right. Then give them the toy. If they are older, I might even be tempted to make them practice today, but lose the privilege of playing with it until tomorrow and remind them of how to ask for it tomorrow.
Just today, Daughter of Purpose was told that she could have a piece of candy after she took her nap. The agreement was that she needed to sleep and then she could have the candy. She did not sleep so she did not get her candy. She tried tears, the look of death and pestering to get her candy, but she did not get it, but I would bet that tomorrow at nap time she remembers and makes sure to sleep like I know she needs to.
All of this kind of reminds me of a little, tiny dog like a Chihuahua that is barking up a storm at a Great Dane thinking it will win the dog fight. Doesn't it make you just laugh to see that Chihuahua thinking it is bigger than it really is? It's an effort at intimidation. Children are exactly like that. They are attempting to intimidate us mommies to get their way! So why do we laugh at the Chihuahua, but yet cower in fear at our own children?
Now I can imagine that you might think, "Okay, so I need to win...I have other children. What do I do with them while I hold my ground on the Battle Ground?" Well, I'm certain they will find something to do while they wait for you to become available again. I have had times that I have had to ask my other children to please wait on their needs until I am done or to ask an older sibling to help them. You can also place them in your view somewhere to read books or play quietly. No harm in them waiting. You can rest assured that no matter what they find to do...they will be watching and listening to your response to the "Chihuahua" of the moment. They are also learning in this moment.
I can still clearly remember when Mr. Negotiator had his moment in the spotlight in the Battle Ground. When he was around a year old, he refused to say "please" for something he wanted. Very quickly it became clear to me that his refusal was not about saying "please." We were about to have a stand-off and I knew I was going to have to win because he was challenging my authority. Mr. Negotiator was tough as a little one, to say the least. He was stubborn as all get out and if he set his mind to something...he stuck to it. To make this very long story short--I stopped everything I was doing, dug in my heels and Mr. Negotiator could not leave the step he was sitting on until he did what I asked. I took a seat right next to him and waited. My other kids came and went. So did my husband. He came home from work and saw why dinner wasn't made and went to go get McDonald's (Mr. Negotiator's favorite) so that I could continue to stand my ground. When dinner arrived, we gave Mr. Negotiator another chance (we'd given him many by now) and he still refused even with the prospect of fries. So at this point, we put him in his crib while we ate dinner. Every few minutes we went into his room and gave him another chance. We even offered him some fries if he complied. No dice. So we waited and waited while we enjoyed our dinner. Eventually (who knows what made him give in) about 2 hours from the start of this incident, Mr. Negotiator gave up his imaginary throne and threw down his crown to The Mom and admitted defeat by signing the word "please." I'll be honest with you. I've never had to have that big of a moment with him again. He still remembers who is in charge in our home. It doesn't mean he's perfect and doesn't try to negotiate me out of my decisions or give me attitude every once in awhile, but he's never questioned my authority since then.
You may not be as lucky as me to only have one large battle. You may have to go head to head daily, but I encourage you to do the battle. Don't give up. You are The Mom. The white flag of defeat should come from the little child, not the big Mama. It may be tough now, but you will thank yourself later. I promise.
Every single one of my children has had a Battle Ground moment with me and I believe the reason they understand who is in charge in our home is because I have stood my ground and won. I believe that some day my children will thank me for showing that I cared enough to give them boundaries and guide them in the way they should go.
Now as to the last thing I can hear you questioning...time. Choose your battles wisely. When an issue comes to a head as you are heading out the door to take your children to school--that's not a good time. In public...that's not a good time either. See my previous post about making sure that you have enough time on your plate to deal with these issues. Don't make yourself so busy that you don't have time to do your primary job--to train your children. If you spend enough time at home, I'm positive your child will throw a tantrum. They are little sin balls. It's bound to happen! That is when you put down the laundry basket and get off of Facebook in order to train your child and to be exactly what God made you to be--The Mom (not the woosie one--the tough one that is in charge).
Dear Young Mama, I believe you can do it. You can take one day, maybe even one moment at a time and come out the winner. You can do what it takes to not live in fear of your child and their reaction to you standing firm on your decision. You can take back what you have lost and re-establish that you are the adult and you are in control of your home--not your child. If you want a guarantee--well, I can guarantee that your child will not like the new fearless Mama, but in time I promise there will be peace in your home again and it will be there for good.
Editor's note: I went back and re-read this. I promise it's not always Battle Ground in our home and no one smiles. Please note that all of this Battle Ground is balanced with a whole lotta fun in our home! In fact, sometimes we laugh through our training times together. When you stand up and be the mom, please make sure to hug and love on your kids in equal measure. Do your best to smile and laugh too!