Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Backseat Mama

There is a Very Important Tool in our house: the microwave timer.

If we can't convince Coralie it's time for bed, the timer can!

If we can't convince her it's time to go potty, the timer can!

If we can't convince her that it's not, in fact, time for her to get up from her nap, the timer can! (This is a sneaky trick we use-- When she is very sure that she is done trying to nap, we say, "Just lay down-- the timer hasn't gone off yet. When it does, then you can get up." This usually gets her to fall asleep and then when she wakes up, we say, "Did you hear the timer go off?" And she says "yep" and climbs out of bed.)

I can look at this in several ways. 1) I am being a poor parent by not making her mind me at my word alone. 2) I am just doing whatever it takes to get her to do what she needs to be doing; the method is not as important as the end result. 3) Some children need to have their dignity preserved and not always be told what to do by Mommy. If this is the case with Coralie (and I think it is, for she gets humiliated any time she is reprimanded, and not because she disappointed us but because she was reminded she is not in a position of power), the very best thing I can do for my long-term relationship with her is to choose my battles.

You know how the Bible tells fathers not to exasperate their children? I can see how frequent bossing and reprimanding kills their little spirits, embitters them towards their parents, and builds up resentment towards authority that could play out for decades.

Maybe Coralie will be a runner, challenged by the timer ticking away as she pounds the pavement. Maybe she will be a salesperson, working towards the quota that will earn her the maximum quarterly bonus. Maybe she will be determined to earn whatever grade, whatever test score, whatever award is required for her to apply for the school or the job she wants. One thing I do know is that she can't be trained to only obey Mommy.

As with so much in life, we must walk a fine line. We must teach, train, discipline, and reprimand. We must also empower, encourage, and embolden our children so that they know their potential, their strengths, their abilities. That means I need to study my children, for effective parenting is not one-size-fits-all. Madeline may never need the timer. But Coralie does, so I will swallow my pride that she more happily obeys a third party than her mother.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps this is how Frank Baum got his idea for the Wizard of Oz. We are all subject to third parties (ideas, mores, habits) that exist only in our imagination. By the time Coralie pulls back the curtain, she will have the self-control she needs. At least that is what the girl in the red shoes said.