Last week we were having a perfect Thursday evening. The kids were playing outside with friends, the weather was beautiful, and my husband was home from work early for once. My daughter and her best friend happily carried their dolls around the cul-de-sac, mothering them like only four-year olds can.
Everything was truly idyllic until we finally decided it was time to gather up all the kids and go inside for dinner and bedtime. We gave them the two-minute warning, and then, when it was time, we did what we always do. We yelled, “Okay kiddos, time to head inside. Tell your friends good night!”
Of course, they always protest, but most of the time, they give in and come inside peacefully. Tonight was a different story. At first, my daughter just ignored us. We said it again and this time she stomped her foot and yelled, “No!! I don’t want to go inside! My dolls are hungry and I need to feed them!”
The Moments I Hate as a Parent
These are the moments I hate as a parent. I knew I need to gear myself up for some excellent parenting, but sometimes it’s so mentally challenging to have to skillfully teach her that she can’t talk back. Truthfully, a large part of me wanted to just ignore the whole thing and wait another 15 minutes and hope that she’d get tired and willingly come inside. Selfishly, I didn’t want to ruin our perfect night with tears and a big fight.
However, the power of peer pressure can be a wonderful thing. I saw my neighbor raise her eyebrow slightly when my daughter yelled at us and I knew I needed to do something. We have selected Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years , by Jim Fay and Charles Fay, as our “go-to” parenting guidebook, so I sighed and mentally scanned the book for the best way to handle the situation. The authors of Love and Logic Magic suggest that parents use as much empathy as possible, but they stress the importance of not giving kids too many chances. After one warning, they say, it’s vital to follow through with what you’ve threatened. I find that this is almost always easier said than done.
I got down to her level and tried my best to be empathetic. “I know you’re having so much fun and don’t want to come inside,” I said. “But it’s time for bed. You can either be a good girl and come inside and quit talking back, or you can say good night to your friends and your dolls.”
I Wanted to Scream...or Give In
She said nothing and I mistakenly saw this as a sign that she was finally going to listen and come inside. I stood up and again asked everyone to come inside. My daughter is usually a very sweet girl, but this night, she raised up her little head and stuck her tongue out at me. I could feel my blood literally beginning to boil. My initial instinct was to march over there, grab her by the arm, and scream at her and ask her who she thought she was to treat me that way.
But I didn’t. I hate it when I yell. I always feel terrible later and I regret it. I took a deep breath and calmly walked over to her. “Uh-oh,” I said. “That is so sad that you decided to stick your tongue out at me. That isn’t a nice way to act at all. Now it’s time to say good-night to your dolls.”
I took her dolls out of her hands and she quickly lost her bravado. She was beside herself as we all walked inside. She yelled, she cried, she told me how sorry she was and how she’d never do it again. Now this was the moment that I really struggled with. We’d had such a good night. So much of me really wanted to just give in and believe her that she’d never do it again. I didn’t want to listen to her crying all night. I wanted to have a nice peaceful dinner, but I knew that if I gave in, she’d never learn the lesson and it would happen again tomorrow night. I held my ground and kept telling her that I “totally understood” how sad she must feel without her dolls.
At the end of the night, I finally let her “earn her dolls back." She had to help me clean up the room and it took quite awhile and a lot of determination for her to clean up every scrap of clothing, every wrapper, and every toy because the house was truly a mess. She stuck with it and at the end, she got to have her dolls back before she went to bed. She was very proud, and I was relieved to have the whole thing over with.
The next morning, I’d forgotten about the entire thing, and I was already working on my computer when she came downstairs at 6:30, all sleepy-eyed and still in her pajamas.
Usually she goes straight in and goes potty so I wasn’t really paying attention until she stood right next to me and her big brown eyes stared up at me. “Mommy,” she said. “I wanted to say that I’m so sorry for sticking my tongue out at you last night.”
I couldn’t believe it. Had she been thinking about it all night? I wanted to laugh. I guess she really learned the lesson if that was the first thing she said when she came downstairs. But I didn’t laugh. I picked her up and hugged her and was so grateful for my sweet little girl.
I fully realize that the battle is not over. I’m sure she’ll stick her tongue out at me again, because she’s not perfect. And I’m sure that I’ll lose my temper at some point because I’m not a perfect parent. But it’s very nice to know that occasionally, lessons do sink in. I can only hope they fully sink in before she becomes a teenager.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.