Is it even possible?
I have a three year old, so this is a subject I have had a lot of time and opportunity to ponder. My son has been blessed with a stubborn gene (passed on from myself and his Opa no doubt!) and knows his own mind. The fact that he isn’t afraid to say no, that he questions “authority” (me!) and doesn’t blindly follow orders and instructions is something I am immensely proud of. I love that he thinks for himself. And yet…
At times, I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish he would just this once, just do as I ask. Sometimes we are in a hurry and it would be really helpful if he would do a few things I KNOW he is capable of – Tidy his toys, put on his coat, wash his face. The fact that he can do these things but chooses not to can be a real source of frustration for me.
And so on these occasions, I would find myself getting cross. I’d nag and complain. I would put the pressure on, and I admit, I even tried subtle bribes and threats. (Lest you believe I always get it right!) And what was the result? He dug his heels in even further. He not only refused to do the thing I had asked, but now refused to even move. Or worse still, my actions made HIM feel frustrated which displayed itself in destructive behaviours. Which in turn, made me angrier still! It became a very negative circle of emotions and reactions.
When this happened I would have two choices. I could up the anti and start punishing in a way that would MAKE him comply by sheer fear, causing catastrophic damage to our relationship, his trust in me, his self confidence and so much more, or I could back down. Admit defeat. Calm myself down and start again. I always chose the second option.
But this still leaves the issue of how do you get your child to cooperate if you don’t want to fall into the dangerous trap of punishment and rewards? So I wanted to share with you what I have learned along the way, and what has worked for our family.