Monday, June 18, 2007 6:36 AM

The Strong-Willed Child

I have been trying to put into practice two tenets of "The Strong-Willed Child" (which mostly applies to Miss Angela). One is that I pray for the strength to be able to SHAPE her will, and not BREAK it. God gave her this amazing spirit, and entrusted me to be her mama. I want her to be the unique person she is meant to be, but not at the expense of everyone's else's sanity. I'm in charge, not a three-year-old, and she knows it, but she's the one when everyone else is playing nicely, will look around and decide things aren't quite exciting for her and need a little stirring up. (I have seen her say, sweetly, "Oh, Peter?" and when he turned to look at her, smiled while she punched him in the face.) Not that Angela is a bully, far from it. Most of the time she's quite sweet and kind-hearted. But when there's trouble, she usually is the one stirring it up, and then is difficult to stop.

While the book recommends spanking the child with a paddle, and then putting it up on display so that they will be reminded of this and that You Are Boss, I just can't do that. I am not a wuss - in fact, we are quite strict with our kids - I just grew up without being spanked and I think that's the way to go. So the other concept I've taken from this book is: I need to find some immediate consequence that bothers Angela enough to deter her from bad behavior. For Sophie, giving her a look and saying sternly, "Do you want to sit in the corner?" is enough to make her stop whatever she's doing; actually going in the corner has her in tears because she wants so badly to make us happy (this is the kind of kid I was, btw). Angela could care less! One time I completely lost it and was screaming myself red in the face at her, and she laughed. Sophie would have been sobbing. That's another point in this book I appreciated; it's not that we're bad parents, or lazy, or whatever. It's that Angela's completely different in her behavior than the other two. And we need other tactics. She's not fond of time-outs, and we do those, but we're still thinking up something else we can use as a deterrent, especially at bedtime.

As for me growing up, we had The Wooden Spoon, which Mom would sort of swat at you with but it didn't hurt because you could always run faster than she did. I remember one day rolling my eyes at her and saying, "It doesn't hurt, Mom," like, come on, you have to do better than that! And she explained about our friend's house, where the kids wait till their Dad gets home from work and he takes off his belt and whacks them with it if their Mom reports they've done something wrong. Would we rather do it that way instead? Because Mom could talk to Daddy about it and work something out if we'd prefer that. No, no, that was quite okay, we reassured her. The Spoon was just fine, and hey, did she need us to set the table or take out the garbage or something? And by the way, Mom, you're looking lovely today.

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