The Power of Choice

I am raising a strong-willed little girl. Her spirit and energy is captivating to most but her determination was slowly killing me. 

She gets many of her qualities from me but, although my own mother may disagree, my daughter is stronger and more persistent than I ever was.

She’s only two years old but except for her size and baby cheeks most would assume her to be 13 going on 21. She’s been our fierce little firecracker since the day she was born. She came in at 5lbs and had a small NICU stay but was the toughest little girl… I shed more tears than she did. 

Over the last 2 years, she has stolen her daddy’s heart which usually makes me the sole discipliner unless of course it involves her hanging out with little boys then daddy is quick to jump in. In order to not completely lose my mind and to help me age successfully, I realized I needed a new game plan when disciplining her. I tried it all:

Most of the things like taking away toys or removing privileges that work on her brother do not work at all on her. In fact, on several occasions when I have threatened to take a toy away if she didn’t do whatever it was I needed her to do she would go to her room and hand me the toy I was threatening to take and tell me “have it mama me don’t care.” 

I decided to look at myself one night since we are so much alike in many ways. I started asking myself what would work for me? What would I want?

The answer: independence and control

While I’m not crazy enough to give her all control, I thought I would give her false control. Control that she believed was full control but at the same time giving me 90% of the control. So I gave her options… yes, I gave her a choice, a say. 

I learned long ago as my mother was parenting me that changing me and taking that inner burning spirit away isn’t the answer the answer is taming it enough to know boundaries but not too much that the flame dies.

Now there are times that we put our foot down and she doesn’t get a choice like the time she threw a kicking slamming fit because I wouldn’t let her drive the car. 

Most of the time she genuinely believes she doesn’t need parents except for nighttime kisses and snuggles. Just the other day I asked her to have patience and I would get her a sippy cup of juice. Well, she must not have liked my answer because I found her with a chair in the fridge she had already used the chair to remove a cup from the cabinet and by the time I caught her she was on the floor trying to figure out how to unscrew the lid to pour her juice.

When I give her options they are usually two that in the end I still get the same result but she thinks she winning. It’s not an option between cookie dough or carrots it’s an option between cucumbers or carrots… both healthy but she feels like she’s winning. I will say this has been an adjustment on my part and sometimes it’s more time consuming than I would like but I would much rather have a relationship with my daughter than be in a constant tug of war with her.

The other day she spilt a box of markers and coloring book on the floor and she was planning on leaving them there for someone else to pick up. At first, I asked her nicely to pick it up. She gave me that sparkling eye smirk (never actually saying no) then turns and walks away. This is one situation of 100 see what I mean by it could be a constant power struggle every day if I didn’t give up some of my control. So I told her she could either pick them up now and go play with the boys (which is what she wanted) or she could sit on a chair in the corner and still pick it up when she was ready. Most of you are probably thinking she picked it up… No, she looked at me looked at the mess and then walked over to the chair in the corner and had a seat… the whole time no words were spoken between the 2 of us. After a few minutes, she tried to sneakily get down and go play but I gave her her options again. Again, she chose to sit down again. A few more minutes passed and I asked if she was ready… she looked at me looked at the boys jumped down picked the markers and book up put it away (even gave me a high five) and ran off with her brother and friends.

I could have yelled at her or forced her to do it but then like all moms 2 hours from now I would have felt terrible all day that I didn’t have the patience and she would have been a negative Nancy all day because she fought with her mama. 

Raising strong willed kids isn’t about putting out their flame it’s about growing it into a huge burning fire piercing bon fire packed with water and sand in case it gets out of control. 

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