Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Setting Limits

Is hard. Really, really hard. I've been told that nobody starts out trying to be an overly-permissive parent (and I believe it). It's hard enough to say no to anyone, let alone to your own beloved child. Harder still when she's saying "no, please" and crying.

But I don't want her to learn that she'll always get her way if she cries. Or if she just asks nicely--though plenty of adults seem to have failed to learn that lesson.

An aside: One of the things I learned while working at UT was that a surprising number of young adults had failed to even learn to ask nicely. I came to be pretty grateful to the students who did ask nicely, or who even attempted to use charm, not that it made me give them better grades than the obnoxious ones. I had one student cry when she came to complain about her grade and the other TAs in my office (all men) were stunned that I didn't cave and raise her grade. For these guys, I guess, a weeping woman was like kryptonite, rendering them powerless.

Today's struggle was over going to school (ie. Mother's Day Out) and I really really wanted the day "out", especially since I have an appointment to get a breast cyst aspirated this afternoon, an experience I've been through before and, while not as bad as a mammogram, it's not exactly fun, either. And it's probably a LOT worse if you're tired, as I would be by 2:45 on a non-school day.

The fact is that her school is different in some ways this summer: different classroom, different teacher. Same kids, same playground, but enough different that a toddler might find it hard. And the only way to get used to it is to go to school and get familiar with the place. Plus, I don't want to set any kind of precedent that she can get out of going to school if she plays her cards right.

I just have to admit it: when my girl weeps sadly and says, "I want mommy" and "no please", I'm rendered nearly powerless. Like kryptonite. "Must... resist... yielding... to... toddler's... demands..."

Here's another thing: the child has figured out that I'm more inclined to enforce the rules when I'm irritated so she sometimes turns on The Cute in the hope of getting her way. And, while I respect the intelligence behind such a choice, I don't want to raise a child who believes that she can get away with anything as long as she's charming about it.

Rules matter whether I'm tired or not. I don't want to raise a child who believes that the only real rule is Don't Piss Off Mom.

I've been slow to realize just how attuned she is to my moods. Not that she's subservient to my moods, exactly, just that it influences her. If I'm sad, she might try to cheer me up instead of being sad, too. I'm not thinking that now that I'm a mom I'm not allowed to have the occasional bad mood, but I'm thinking that I need to learn how to pay attention to my feelings and not allow them to control whether or not I'm going to be in charge or not.

An example: yesterday in the coffee shop (ok, the juice bar) at Whole Foods, BabyGirl and I were having milk and cookies (mostly, she had the milk, I had the cookie). And she was cheerfully refusing to sit in a chair and instead persisted in wandering around being cute and charming to everyone around us. People smiled at her but I realized: I need to teach her that this isn't how we behave in a coffee shop. So I said, hey, sit down or we have to leave. She refused. So we left. (But I finished my cookie, just in a hurry.) Leaving the place didn't make her upset, so it wasn't like she was being punished, but I did explain that we couldn't stay because she wouldn't sit down.

I wasn't trying to punish the child, I just wanted there to be consequences for her actions. And she didn't exactly want to leave but she wasn't particularly happy to go, either. (Doesn't hurt that it was 95F outside.)

So, here's the thing--is she old enough to understand the connection between her behavior and the consequences? And if she doesn't particularly mind, am I wasting my time? The fact is, I wasn't particularly enjoying trying to eat a cookie while she roamed around, so the result was that I avoided a situation where I'd get more and more annoyed.

Also, I'm hoping that I'll at least start making a connection here: coffee shop = sitting down. She's getting old enough that roaming around in a restaurant isn't so cute anymore and it'll get less and less cute the older she gets. Best to start limiting it now. If I'd ordered a meal, I could have taken her aside for A Chat but that wasn't necessary.

Sigh. The old saying that If Momma Ain't Happy, Nobody's Happy makes a lot more sense now.


Post a Comment

<< Home