Saturday, April 16, 2011

Treading the Line: Free Spirit/Spoiled

My husband and I are trying to raise our 2 1/2 year old to be her own person. We want her to be self-assured, self-confident, conscientious of others, an independent thinker, a strong decision-maker, and unafraid to stand for what she loves.
It's more important to us that she be independent and confident as she grows older than for her to be blindly obedient. Because in my opinion, blind obedience has never been good for anyone.

All good things in theory right?

The problem is finding the line between letting her be her own person, and letting her run wild.
I don't want her to be a child who screams "NO!" when told what to do, or who runs off when she needs to be disciplined, but I also don't want to break her spirit.
And this becomes a balancing act between free spirit and spoiled (or good and evil!) that breaks down into almost every part of our everyday life.

Luckily, we seem to lean towards the happier side of the line for the most part.

For example, when she passes gas.
She and daddy will laugh. A lot.
Then she will usually say something like "Haha, I fahted".
And then she'll say with a smile, "Excuse me!".
Because in our family, its okay for farts to be funny, but we should also be curteous to others. (Win!)

Or, like when she went through her screaming phase.
So long as she screamed because she was happy, or excited, or for no reason at all, we would say something like "Wow! That was a good one!".
If she did it because she was sad or scared, we would comfort her, and let her know it was good that she was telling us she was scared or sad, and then try to demonstrate a better way of sharing how she was feeling.
But if she did it because she was angry or unhappy, we would simply ignore her.
Lucky for us, it worked. She actually stopped screaming in just a few months, except for when she is playing, and surprised or excited. (Win!)

She is also one of the most polite kids I've ever been around (something we've been complimented on a lot, but the kudos really go to her), she genuinely cares about other people's feelings, and she keeps her room immaculately clean (again, ALL her). (Epic Win!)

But with the good comes the bad, and things have backfired on us too.

We like to give her options so she learns good decision-making skills. So we will ask her what she wants to eat for breakfast: a banana, a bowl of cereal, some strawberries, or some toast? And she will usually tell us what she wants.
But sometimes, (okay, 45% of the time), she'll say something like: "Tootie! I wan tootie mommy!"
Translation: she wants cookies for breakfast.
Or crackers.
Or m&ms.
And her being her stubborn self, she will choose to not eat any breakfast rather than eat ANYTHING other than a cookie.
Which leaves me feeling like a terrible parent because my kid skipped breakfast and is complaining about being hungry.(Fail.)

Or we'll tell her that she needs to do something.
And because she's so used to options if she doesn't get them she tends to get pretty defiant. So we get to deal with the "No!" child. Which in our house results in time-outs. (Fail.)

Part of the problem is really our own.
We will ask her to do something when we really intend to tell her to do it.
She, having been asked, chooses not to do it, and if she's in a particularly stubborn mood she will
just. not. do it.
Which usually results in time-outs. (Fail.)

The result of all of this is our constantly treading a line between her being a free spirit, or spoiled.
A line that can at times be very fuzzy and hard to see.
A line that is sometimes, unfortunately, but inevitably, crossed.
And the hope is that consistancy and effort will help to guide her into being a free-spirit, but one who recognises and follow the rules.

Oh, idealism. How you taunt us.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll eventually make up your own mind on which of the two she is, if not now, then as time and posts go on. Until then this is me, carefully treading the line.

Jessica at J.LiLy

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