There are a few things that people say every time they meet our daughter Reese:
a) She's SO cute!!
b) She has such an amazing personality!
c) Watch out... she's going to give you all a LOT of trouble!
All three of those are very true, but the last one is the one that tends to bring me the most stress. I mean, the girl is not yet three and she has more opinions than a politician.
For instance, I have medium length hair and I can't stand to have it on my neck. By the end of the day I'm hot, tired, feeling absolutely disgusting and 90% of the time, all of that results in me throwing it up in a messy ponytail. When I walk in the front door, Reese exclaims, "No, Mommy!! Don't wear your hair up! Don't wear your hair up!!!!" Seriously it's so bad, that I'm at the point of shaving it. [Not really, but seriously!?] I want to say, "Daughter, I will WEAR my hair however I f'ing choose to!"
The battle of wills has begun and honestly? It can be a little intimidating to have such a strong-willed child. It's not that she's BAD, because she's not. There's a few things that she's realizing: she knows she's funny. She knows she makes people laugh. And as her intelligence grows each day, she is learning that she has choices and a very large voice to make her preferences known.
So here's what I am learning about raising a strong-willed and independent child:
-Giving her choices is uber important (and can also be very trying): which shoes to wear, shirt, shorts, pajamas, toy to bring in the shower or bathtub, which color sippy cup, etc.
-Sometimes a firm redirection just doesn't work. She needs a friendly voice combined with a firm voice more often than not. With our son, we can tell him, "Go clean up your mess," and while sometimes there's a few grumbles, he knows just to do it. With her, being told, "Go do such and such," needs a little extra coaching. "Hey, you can leave those two toys out that you're still playing with, but let's clean up the rest." Usually if we add friendly to firm she starts singing the 'clean up' song and gets the job done.
-Sometimes I need to walk away. This is the area I struggle the most in, and obviously telling my toddlers, "I need a break," and closing a door isn't feasible. But picking my battles is crucial. Is it the end of the world if she leaves the bathroom to brush her teeth? Or if she left three toys out when she they're all supposed to be put away? There are little things that every mom of a 2-year old deals with... and as long as she's listening and obeying? I have to remind myself to breathe and CHILL.
-Catching the positives and praising her often is essential, as is making sure she hears them. I grumble, a lot. And the second she did it back at me I knew I had made a mistake. Guess what? Now she does it ALL. THE. TIME. I didn't even know I had done it audibly but here we are. So when she instead responds to me with, "Okay!" Or, "Yes, Mom," I praise the HECK out of her. There are lots of days when I feel like I am redirecting both kids 24/7, but it's actually helped each of them when I pass out positive affirmations while they are doing something GOOD. These types of moments can be easily missed; the sweet responses, the obedience to small tasks, but noticing them is vital.
-She's doesn't hate me. No, but for real, aren't there some days when you take the things your kids do or say personally? Bedtime has been rough for us lately, mainly for me. She tests every ounce of my limits when it's my turn to put her down. She wants to be funny and try to escape the room or her bed or fight the covers, and it can make me SO angry. And come eight o'clock at night, I'm just TIRED of redirecting kids. But she's not being disobedient because she hates me, she's doing it because for whatever reason she thinks MY rules are guidelines (she doesn't act that way with Dad!) and she needs my help understanding otherwise.
-She seems super strong at times and much more independent than her brother, but she still needs lots of love. She sometimes puts on a hard face and crosses her arms over her chest out of anger and frustration, but often those are the times she needs to be scooped up and hugged the most.
Man is this going to be trial and error though, am I right? Who would have thought that there would be SO many articles on "SWC" (Strong-Willed Children)?? And it's not even that her brother is perfect or that we don't struggle with him; he's a rule follower and extremely Type A, (completely opposite from her!), but there's learning to be had with mothering him as well (duh, right?)
I have quite a few favorites that she does at the moment: stretching her arms high in the sky faking just waking up, omg, so funny. The way she wants to wait on the porch and watch me leave each day as I head off to work, tears. Her, "I need a hug, Mommy! I need a kiss, a kiss!" on repeat at naptime, bedtime, anytime...oh I love it. How she mothers her babies, singing them 'Sunshine' and rocking them to sleep... a glimpse into what a wonderful mama she will someday be!
Strong-willed children don't translate to bad children. It doesn't mean that they are terrible kids or disobey just to be defiant. I can't even begin to fathom all the GOOD she is going to do. And I really believe that with her Daddy's and I help, she won't allow the world to change her, but that she will change the world. Peer pressure, hopefully she'll breeze right past it. Being a pushover, I don't think that'll ever be an adjective anyone uses to describe her. Her favorite song is 'Fight Song' by Rachel Platten and she especially loves to watch the Supergirl show's Intro (with that as the theme song). She is brave, sweet, loves hard, and her firecracker personality is helping me as her mom grow and be better each day.
**Anyone else have a strong willed child? Or maybe you have a rule follower and are learning how to better parent him/her. Maybe you have both like I do? I always love hearing from you, jot me a note and share your tips and tricks and/or how YOU stay sane ;) **