With my two girls, I don’t remember any terrible two’s or three’s. Actually, the hardest year of their early childhood was between their first and second birthdays, when they were walking and getting into everything but still not quite grasping the meaning of “no.” They either ignored my request altogether or smiled while they were doing whatever I told them not to do.
I can tell this is going to be very different with my son. This past year was a breeze. But as we neared his birthday, he has begun to furiously assert his independence. Completely normal, but two-year-olds can run a lot faster and throw a lot farther than one-year-olds and they can reach the door knob and maneuver kitchen chairs easier to climb up onto counters and can unscrew peanut butter jar lids. Plus, the default tricks for one-year-olds, substitution and redirection, don’t work nearly as well on two-year-olds whose memory and focus are more fine-tuned. And then, of course, we have to remember that he’s a little boy, with energy and large motor skills galore.
In the last post, I introduced a situation between my daughters that required parental intervention: My daughters had been playing on the bed when one fell off. My older daughter immediately apologized, but my younger daughter would not hear of it and lashed out angrily.
I had asked you to let me know how you would’ve dealt with it. This was to be an exercise in looking at this common situation in a new light – instead of thinking that child needs a timeout, considering what else might be going on to contribute to the situation.
I’ll admit, sibling rivalry is difficult to deal with. But, I’ll give you a hint – the unmet need in this case had nothing to do with her sister, the bed, the fall, or their father. It was a basic need for attention.
Last week, I posted something on my Facebook page about my parenting style:
“I do parent differently. I don’t spank, I don’t punish. I don’t use reward systems. I guide, I teach. My kids are happy, loving, and I often get compliments on their good behavior. I breastfed on demand, I coslept. I base my parent on individual relationships with each of my children, I base my parenting on that children have equal worth as adults. And, when fully embraced, it works. For me, for my kids, and for my husband. Especially for my marriage, because the attitude I take toward my kids is the same that I take toward my husband. I accept, I love unconditionally, I love our differences. It’s a different way of looking at kids, at parenting, at marriage, at the world. And it has a name: Attachment Parenting.”
I got 11 likes. But that wasn’t the point.
She had just finished her breakfast but wasn’t yet changed out of her pajamas and needed to brush her teeth and comb her hair, morning tasks the other children had already finished. Daddy had told her that she could come outside when she was done and that they would delay going on a walk until she came.
But she was angry because he wasn’t doing as she wanted and she ran to me to tell me so, in hopes that I would back her up.
What would you do?
Some parents would say that in no uncertain terms should this little girl be getting her way, or talking with disrespect toward her father, or tattling on Daddy to the other parent. That she was being manipulative and should be punished.
What did I do?
Even with the healthiest attachment bonds, conflict will arise in our relationships. Healthy conflict resolution — which keeps the attachment bond intact — is done in a gentle, positive manner that promotes influence, guidance, and teaching rather than control.
Much of the root of conflict resolution resides in our own selves – in dealing with our own unresolved hurts and biases, as well as finding personal balance, so that we can control the urge to jump to conclusions and react without thinking. And so that we can have the courage to stop in the moment, take a deep breath, and think about how to control our default thinking to be able to react with compassion instead of anger and defensiveness.
Another important piece of this puzzle is understanding how personality differences play into both conflict and conflict resolution. Think about what is most likely to create conflict between you and your spouse or partner: Often, isn’t it because you two do the same thing in different ways? My husband and I encounter this all the time. I am much more detail-oriented than my husband and sometimes don’t understand why he doesn’t see the crumbs on the table, while he wonders why I care so much about the crumbs. The same situation can happen between you and a child who doesn’t see the world in the same way.