Resisting, Stalling, Dilly-Dallying

Kids can wear down our patience when they seem to resist or stall us with everything we need them to do—even when we’re only asking them to move through the predictable routines in their day like getting out of bed, going to or leaving school, brushing their teeth, and so on. The constant pushback and struggle make it feel impossible to stay unruffled.

In this episode, Janet shares an easy-to-remember, viable alternative to the strategies, games, scripts, threats, patient waiting, or coaxing we may have unsuccessfully tried in the past (while also explaining why those responses don’t tend to be sustainable). She offers examples through two letters. One parent, who resorts to eventually picking up her toddlers when they resist, shares: “My 3-year-old is getting much heavier, stronger, and faster, so the moments of resistance are becoming more difficult to overcome without struggle, and I don’t know what I will do in a year or two when he becomes even faster and stronger.” Another parent asks: “Is this level of dilly-dallying normal? If so, how should we deal with that? If the gentle ways don’t work, threats don’t work (or even make things worse in the long run), what else can we do?”

Transcript of “Resisting, Stalling, Dilly-Dallying”

Hi, this is Janet Lansbury. Welcome to Unruffled.

Today I’m going to be talking about a topic I think many of us can relate to: What do we do when our kids resist all these things that go on during the day that we need them to do? It’s frustrating, right? When it seems like we just can’t budge them or they just seem to push back on everything. From getting out of bed in the morning to getting out the door, sitting down for a meal, brushing their teeth, getting ready for bed, going to school, leaving school. This can even become a pattern that just goes on throughout the day with children, it seems to be getting worse instead of better. So I’m excited to get into that topic, and I have two notes from parents about it.

What do our kids need from us? What’s going on with them? How can we fix this, or at least ease this, so it’s not happening constantly? Because we’re pulling our hair out, right? And really this topic is more than about helping our children to not resist as much. It’s really about helping ourselves, because this is so frustrating. And reading these notes, I can feel myself getting frustrated along with these parents who are sharing with me, I can feel my own stress level rising just imagining what’s going on there. So I get it. And I think—well, I hope—I can help these parents with some subtle shifts in their thinking and their approach.

Here are some of the shifts I’m going to explain: One, simplifying. Minimizing our agenda for kids to what’s really needed, letting go of some things. And then also simplifying by saying less, helping sooner and more readily. Closing those gaps where we’re waiting for our child to do it.

Two, being mentally prepared in regard to our expectations for the possible resistance that we’re going to be facing. Especially if this has been a pattern, we can sort of know, Oh, this could happen, so I’m ready for it. That’s how we set ourselves up for success.

What this will look like is instead of trying to negotiate with our child or get them to do something—I don’t even like that phrase, “get them to,” because it’s work. It’s us trying to make something happen with our child, and subtly we’re pitting ourselves against our child: I’m trying to get you to, so in a sense, I’m trying to sell you on and make you do this. Instead of what I recommend in regard to everything about parenting: partnering with our child. If we think about it, we don’t use strategies in other relationships in our lives. Well, maybe we do in certain business relationships, I don’t know, but with our loved ones, we’re not trying to get them to do this or that in a healthy relationship. We’re connecting, we’re communicating honestly, we’re encouraging. We’re working with, not against. We’re not using scripts. We’re being open and honest and receiving honestly from the other person as well.

Okay, so with all that general advice, here are some notes that I received:

Hi, Janet-

First of all, thank you. Your teachings about parenting have given me so much more peace and confidence than anything else I’ve tried as a parent. I find that a lot of my kids’ boundary-pushing behaviors lessen over time as we all—me, mostly—calm down.

One question I’ve had for a long time is how to help older kids when they’re resisting. My understanding of the early years is that we give babies and toddlers the opportunity to do what they need to in their own steam, for example, to come and clean their teeth or get dressed or put down the heavy object they were about to throw. But then if they don’t do it, rather than having a long, never-resolved standoff, we just calmly help them.

With my two—my first is three-and-a-half years old and my second is 22 months—this usually looks like carrying them places, as they’re not usually willing to walk or cooperate at all in those moments. I try to do this as you have modeled, calmly and positively. Neutrally, without being annoyed at their resistance. “I can see you’re having a hard time putting that toy down, so I’m just going to help you,” or “It’s hard to stop what you’re doing, isn’t it? I’ll help you come get dressed. I can see that’s really hard for you right now.” Okay, maybe I don’t always say it as perfectly as that, but I try to get somewhere close.

Anyway, my question is, my three-year-old is getting much heavier, stronger, and faster, so the moments of resistance are becoming more difficult to overcome without struggle. And I don’t know what I will do in a year or two when he becomes even faster and stronger. What if I can’t catch him as he runs away? What if he’s too strong to help with getting dressed when he’s refusing to let me put his pants on? He’s already kind of there at the moment. Carrying to help has been the most wonderful way to diffuse the situation when the kids are small and it is still socially appropriate to carry them around. I use it all the time and we are happier for it, but what is the replacement end-this-power-struggle move when the kid is older and I can’t just set a boundary by physically helping them comply?

Also, you’ll want to know that baby number three is on the way, and of course that will be a big factor behind any of my boys’ behaviors over the next few months. This is another reason I’ve had this question as when you’re pregnant, most people will tell you not to lift. But I couldn’t figure out how to go about life without carrying my toddlers when they dug their heels in, so I went back to just lifting them whenever I needed and hoping my inside baby wouldn’t mind.

Any advice for this issue would be so greatly appreciated. I would also apply it to my interactions with resistant kids at school when I go back to teaching primary school one day. Thank you so very much.

Okay, so a lot of little things here stand out for me. First of all, I want to help this parent. She says, “When I stick to it properly, I find that a lot of my kids’ boundary-pushing behaviors lessen over time.” So even this idea of “properly,” and I think later she says, “Okay, maybe I don’t always say it as perfectly as that.” Properly, perfectly. I would love to encourage this parent and all parents to just lose those ideas that there’s a proper, perfect way to do anything as a parent, but especially to help our child when they’re pushing back like this or when they’re stalling or resisting us. And to, again, get more in that mindset of partnering with our child.

Because I’m also hearing in this note that she’s supposed to do this “calmly and positively,” “neutrally, without being annoyed” at her children’s resistance. So it feels like a lot of should here. It’s natural to be annoyed with children when they’re not behaving as an adult would in that moment or an older child would, or behaving as they can when they’re in a different mood, right? They’re not always like this. It’s normal to get annoyed by that. What helps us to feel better and less annoyed is what I was mentioning earlier about our expectation of what our child’s going through, what their behavior could very well be, because they’ve been showing this pattern.

Understanding as this parent does that, yeah, they feel this transition coming on with their mom expecting another baby. And from pretty early on in the pregnancy, children feel that shift. I can remember as a child—I was thinking about this just the other day—I was three when my mom was expecting my younger sister, and I have two older ones as well. I could sense my mother sort of pulling her attention away from me, ever so subtly. I mean, I think I’m a sensitive person, but wow, I remember that feeling that I was losing her. Children feel that, and it’s scary. It’s this shift and you notice it as a child. So I’m sure they’re feeling that, and yes, it will continue after she has the baby, I imagine. But there’s a lot of reason for them to be struggling right now, as this parent acknowledges.

So going in knowing that, I would way simplify. Physically help more earlier, and say much less than what this parent is doing. Because she says she’s saying things like, “I can see you’re having a hard time putting that toy down, so I’m just going to help you.” Maybe that’s something we say the first time our child does that, but we don’t really need to say all of that. When we partner with our child, we can have shorthand, we don’t have to explain all of these things. The fact that she says, “I can see you’re having a hard time putting that toy down, so I’m just going to help you.” I don’t know, I just, as I’m saying this, I feel my temperature rising. I’m kind of, Ugh. Instead of just noticing that. Maybe that’s part of my inner monologue, Oh, they’re having a hard time putting that toy down. But you know what? I’m not surprised because a lot of things are kind of falling apart these days as we’re all in this rocky family transition.

So as soon as I see that hesitation to put the toy down, I’m going to be on that. In fact, I may be on that even before. I might be ready, if I want my child to put that toy down because it’s time to go or do something else or maybe they’re using the toy unsafely. I can kind of see that energy coming or I’m expecting it, and I come close and I say, “Oh, you know what? I’m going to help you out here,” as I’m helping take the toy. So that’s what confident momentum is. You’ve heard me talk about that a lot. This idea that we’re coming in early with momentum to help our child through all these little transitions that they struggle with, especially when there are greater transitions going on. So all these little transitions, I’m going to help close the gaps.

And when we’re there early, we don’t have to resort to picking our child up as much. That’s usually a sign that we’re waiting too long. I mean, sometimes we are going to be a little late to the game and we are going to need to pick them up or that’s going to be the right move in the moment if it’s an emergency or whatever. But coming in early with partnership and seeing them and seeing what’s going on as early as we can, expecting it. That will help us to just take their hand or be ready, not allowing that standoff. What this parent calls power struggle, which is sort of what can happen when we wait or we try to verbalize what we want our child to do or even what we’re going to do, as in this situation. We don’t have to verbalize it to that extent, our thought process. We can just think our thought process and maybe pretty quickly, because we’re expecting this, make that change, give that help, offer that partnership right there. My child needs me, I’m going to help them. I see they’re not able to do these things themselves these days, so I’m going to kindly help.

And then she says, “It’s hard to stop what you’re doing, isn’t it? I’ll help you come get dressed.” We still might say that, but I would say it while you’re already in motion. “Yeah, I know. You want to keep doing that. Here we go. We’re going to get dressed, my love. It’s time.” So simplifying it, starting earlier.

And then, “I can see that’s really hard for you right now.” Maybe we don’t express that because it can get a little—I don’t want to say “shaming” because I really don’t want this parent or any parent to feel even more like they’re not doing it properly or they have to be perfect. That’s the last thing I want. But we don’t need to kind of rub that in and say those words. We can just say, “Come on, here we go.” Yep, I know it’s hard to do this sometimes. So here I am, I’m always going to help you. It’s not a script, but it’s an attitude. It’s a recognition of what’s going on and what children need from us. Then we don’t have to try to battle against what she says is her three-year-old’s getting much heavier, stronger, and faster. So she says, “the moments of resistance are becoming more difficult to overcome without struggle.” So we overcome them by anticipating them and helping out sooner.

And she says, “I don’t know what I’ll do in a year or two when he becomes even faster and stronger. What if I can’t catch him as he runs away? What if he’s too strong to help with getting dressed when he is refusing to let me put his pants on? He’s already kind of there at the moment.” So when a child runs away in those situations, I wouldn’t try to run and catch them because there we’re getting caught up in a power struggle with them and it’s going to be frustrating for us. There’s no way around that. Instead, don’t try to control what we don’t control. Say, “You know what? I’m going to go be in your room with your brother. I’m going to help him get dressed. You let me know when you’re ready. I can’t wait to get you dressed, too.” That’s how we partner with and avoid the struggle. We kind of cut our losses. Maybe this is going to take five or 10 minutes longer, but I’m not going to put myself in the position where I’m chasing after this guy, which only encourages him to keep running and resisting, right? We can help melt away that resistance by not engaging in it. It takes two to be in a power struggle. So we can let him try to engage us in that struggle, but we’re just not going to take the bait.

And, “What if he’s too strong to help with getting dressed when he’s refusing to put his pants on?” So I wonder if she’s approaching that early enough and just, “Come on, let’s do this. Ah, you don’t want to.” And acknowledging, allowing him to have all those feelings. But then if you feel like you’re starting to butt up against him, “Let’s take these pants and we’ll bring ’em in the car and you can change there.” Let it go when it’s not working, like that. With all the love in the world, refuse to engage in the struggle. Either override it or let it go.

So she says, “What is the replacement end-this-power-struggle move when the kid is older?” So I wouldn’t wait until a child is older, I would actually start this right away. It’s not a replacement, it’s partnership. And not being willing to get into a tug of war or any kind of struggle with them or a chase. Rising above it. And she talks about, “when you’re pregnant, most people tell you not to lift.” Right, even more reason to practice that confident momentum, helping earlier, letting go of the things we don’t control.

Now just circling back to one thing which she mentions: brushing teeth. And I know I brought that up. Things like brushing teeth, where there isn’t a “picking them up and making them do that” option. How do we do this without trying to make a game out of it, and we have to figure out a way to coax them and get them there? It’s being honest in the partnership. “You know we’ve got to brush your teeth. That’s something that’s really important. Because I know you like to eat things that get in your teeth and sometimes like to eat sweets. So we’ve got to do this. What can I do to help? How can we do this?” Letting go of it sometimes, because we don’t really control it, and the less control that we have in an area, the more important it is to partner, approach it lightly and politely, with a lot of understanding of our child not wanting to do it. Not just saying the words, “I know you don’t want to do it,” but really getting that. And while other kinds of tactics like play, it can make it work sometimes because to be able to play, we have to be kind of in a light mood anyway. So it does work for that reason, but not in the long term.

What works in the long term is that honesty. “You know you’ve got to brush them. I know you’ve got to brush them. How are we going to do this? We could do it earlier in the evening when you’re not so tired. How about we bring it to the dinner table and after you eat dinner, you brush your teeth? How would you like to do this?” And whether we’re actually talking all about it that much or not, it’s just that idea of, I’m with you and I get it. So that’s the direction I would go for this parent. And the more she does it now, the more our children will want to cooperate with us in the future because they feel that. They feel us with them, not so frustrated by them all the time, which is natural to feel if we’re working at it this hard. So I hope some of that can help this parent.

And here’s another note. It’s long and wonderfully detailed. I thought about editing it, but then I thought, why not just share all the details here? It might be helpful to hear the whole story that this parent’s giving me:

I’ve been following your podcast and reading your book and wondering if you could provide further guidance on a topic my wife and I are still struggling with almost on a daily basis. We have two kids. W is a boy, three-and-a-half years old, and E is a girl, five months old. And the issue we have is with his dilly-dallying on everything, from eating to getting ready to doing his “homework.”

I’ll illustrate with a few examples: Getting ready in the morning. It starts with him refusing to wake up and get to the washroom to brush his teeth and pee. I’ll try various gentle ways to wake him up. For example, tickling him with his stuffy and playing music. When those don’t work, I’d tell him, “We need to get ready quickly, otherwise we’d be late and I’d have no choice but to drive really fast. You don’t like me to go really fast, do you?” Which is pretty much a threat, and unfortunately I’ve had to use this more often than I like, even though I’m aware that this is doing more harm than good. I even often ask him if he wants to sleep longer on the condition he eats his breakfast at the daycare instead of at home. Ninety-five percent of the time, he’ll choose to sleep longer, but most of the time ended up playing right away instead of eating his breakfast first when he gets to the daycare. When even the threat doesn’t work, I’d scoop him up and carry him to the washroom. Often he’d try to wiggle away on our way or when we get there, he’d run back to his room. I’d carry him back, get him to stand up, where his legs turned to jelly.

Next, brushing teeth. I’ve come to the point where I’ve helped him to brush teeth and getting dressed 95% of the time, helping him move along with confident momentum. I’d start with helping him gargle, but because of his jelly feet, some water would spill on his pajamas and hence the next source of meltdown. By now, I’ve gotten used to his crying and wailing while I help him brush his teeth. This initially made me uncomfortable and though difficult, I’ve learned to understand that he feels upset and I should allow him to have and express that emotion.

After he gets dressed, he usually chooses to play for a bit instead of resting or lying down while I get dressed. The strange thing is, by then he’s like a completely different kid, often all smiley. It’s like the struggle just five minutes earlier never happened.

On the way to daycare, I’d ask what he should do when he gets into the room, to which he always recites all the steps. But once we step into daycare, all of those go out the window. He’d run and hide, wanting me to catch him despite my posture, in addition to mentioning it explicitly that it’s not a game. I’d remind him what we talked about, what he needed to do, almost always to no avail. As above, I’d end up getting him ready, taking his jacket off, washing his hands, etc., which gets the quickest result. But I worry by doing that, I’m not setting him up for success because when all of these are happening, to add insult to injury, other kids, some younger than him, often passed by heading to their lockers and getting ready on their own.

Eating. Long story short, he can eat quickly when he wants to, but he often does not. He’d stand up, walk around his chair, etc. We’d be the ones getting anxious and would end up imposing time limit if he’s been taking too long. He’d still dilly-dally and finally would get anxious toward the last couple of minutes because he knew he wouldn’t make it and hence would not get his treat, for example, chocolate. Recently we have started letting him take the lead regarding the portion he wants to eat. We no longer require him to finish everything on his plate. We took careful consideration in terms of portioning, but finally realized we were fighting a losing battle. However, once he starts dilly-dallying, we take it as a sign that he’s getting full and will take away his plate. He still gets his treat, but when it comes to snack time, he’ll need to finish his dinner first before he gets to eat his snacks. Otherwise, he’d game the system, and we have noticed he would eat much more snacks. No bad kids, but boy are they really smart.

When we take his plate, he’d start screaming, saying he still wants to eat. We would say that he started moving around and slowing down, so we take it as a sign that he’s full and that if he still wants to eat, we’ll eat again soon. He’d march to the kitchen and take back his plate. We’d say if he insists to eat again, now versus later, this would be his last chance to demonstrate that he’ll continue to be seated until he’s done eating, because the next time he shows the signs again, the plate is not coming back no matter how much he kicks and screams.

Homework. After dinner, we’d get him to trace alphabets, two letters, 18 times each. Again, he’d dilly-dally. He’ll want to pick his own crayon, he’ll put the crayon on the desk. He’ll stand up to get something, tipping the desk in the process. Crayon would fall down. He’d grab the crayon, put it down on the desk, try to grab something else. He’d finally start to write, but he’d press down too hard, break the crayon, have a meltdown because the crayon breaks, demand we fix the crayon and give him another crayon. This ritual could easily take 10 to 15 minutes. It’s like watching a clown performance for kids with him as the main star.

Again, he can do these two worksheets very quickly in about 15 minutes. However, with all this nonsense at the start and dilly-dally while doing it as well, the whole thing could take 45 minutes. As a result his TV time, which comes next, is cut short to 10 minutes. He’d then scream and wail again when we tell him to turn off the TV.

I know that kids live in the now and there often is a lack of sense of urgency, but is this level of dilly-dallying normal? If so, how should we deal with that? If the gentle ways don’t work, threats don’t work or even make things worse in the long run, what else can we do?

And although we just had a newborn, this dilly-dallying has started before that. We just have less time and energy to put up with it because we have more things to do and an entire additional human being to look after. If we continue to help him do things that he can technically do on his own, are we doing more harm than good in the long run? Can this method/principle mesh well with William Stixrud’s The Self-Driven Child, where the more we do for our kids, the less they do for themselves? And ultimately, with all our efforts in parenting, how and when do we know we’ve succeeded? Especially if the goal is not pure compliance.

P.S. I was raised in a family that focused on academic achievements, so I vowed not to let my kids go through that. That is, until our close friends’ kid didn’t make it to a kindergarten of their choice. Their kid is very bright, so I take it as the failure on the parents’ part that this happened. And it’s exactly because my kid would be considered relatively bright that I do not want to fail him and take it as my responsibility to ensure he’s well-prepared.

Okay. So this parent, as with the other parent, but even more so, is taking on so much responsibility that, in my view, doesn’t belong to them and is making everything harder. This responsibility to get him to eat a certain amount, to get him to do homework at three years old. No early childhood educator would agree that that’s something that a preschooler needs to do or even a kindergartener or first grader needs to do. So that stands out especially to me as something to totally take off your plate as a parent. Not even consider. Because if children want to do this kind of work at that age, they do it. And I’m a believer that homework at any age is between a child and their teacher. It shouldn’t start this early, but when it does, it’s really up to that teacher and the child to make that work together. With all the responsibilities we have and the boundaries we have to make for children, this is way over the top to me. I know other people will disagree. So scratch that off your list.

And then it seems like this parent is noticing that all the negotiations, gentle ways to try to coax him to get up, with his stuffy, playing music, tickling. And then when those don’t work, he tells him, “We need to get up really quickly, otherwise we’ll be late and I’ll have no choice but to drive really fast,” which his child doesn’t like. Or he could sleep longer on the condition he eats his breakfast at daycare. So all of that is way too much for this child to try to process and understand and make choices around. Especially in these transitions of getting up, getting to school, brushing his teeth. Children can’t handle that amount of thought process and choice around these things. They just need us to help them do it, with love and honesty and partnership.

And as this parent sees, it’s not helping him either. He’s getting exhausted and completely frustrated because he’s trying to reason with his child at times when his child is totally incapable of doing that. And this huge transition that’s happening with the new baby, which frames so much of this issue of what this boy’s going through. So that’s a big reason why he’s struggling with all these other transitions and needs help. Not coaxing, not threatening, not demands and complications, but just simple help.

So if we have to get him up in the morning, anticipating, being ready for that. “Here we go, my boy. I’m going to help you up. Oh, you don’t want to get up now. I know. We’ve got to do this bathroom thing. I know you don’t like to do it. Brushing the teeth. Alright, we’ll make it quick. Is there a way we can do it that’s better for you?” Closing the gaps, moving it along. Confident momentum only works when we are totally willing to do it from a place of partnership, which means, Yeah, all your feelings of not wanting to do this, I totally get. You don’t want to do this, you don’t want to do that. Not just saying words, again, but really being willing to join our child in understanding that. And just working through it as best we can. Not trying to get him to do it. Putting our arms around him, holding his hand. If he needs to run away, let him run away. He’ll come back if you stay put and just say, “You know, I’m here for you, buddy. I can’t wait for you to come back.”

If we can be in that loving partnership place, children are drawn to us like a magnet. If we’re in that understanding, empathic, partnering, I’m with you buddy place. It’s a whole different vibe and it’s hard for me to get into all the specifics of how this looks in all these situations, but that’s why I’m hoping people listening will just try to embrace this as a whole different view. It’s a view of knowing and seeing and empathizing with, if we can, what’s going on with our child. It could still be frustrating, but when we feel ourselves get frustrated, instead of trying to push through it, let go. Take a moment. Breathe. Think to yourself, Does it really matter if he goes to daycare on time today? Maybe it does.

It certainly doesn’t matter if he does homework at this age, I can guarantee you. Children learn those types of skills not from doing worksheets or repetitive drawing of letters, but through their own play with materials, building the concepts for the letters and numbers, so that they want to be able to express themselves and they want to learn those symbols. To practice these kind of letter drills, it’s like doing the icing without doing the cake. That’s the easy stuff. When they’re ready, they do that. Or they ask for help, they want help to figure it out.

And then the eating. Again, it’s great that this parent has switched to not having him clean his plate because there’s another thing we don’t control that we do not want to take on. We don’t want to take on anything we don’t control, which includes him writing letters and the frustration of the crayon and the whole thing. I mean, as this dad says, it’s like a clown show. Yeah! Why are we signing up for this? It’s obviously something where we don’t control any of it and he doesn’t need it. So, letting that go.

What else? Brushing his teeth and peeing. Just carry him through, get him there, do your best with the toothbrush. Maybe he wants to rinse sometimes, rinse his mouth. If he hasn’t eaten anything in the morning, he might not need to brush his teeth at that age. But the more energy that we expend with the strategies and the tactics, the harder it’s going to be for us to partner with our child, the more distance that puts between us. We’re putting all this effort in, it’s not working, it’s not working. There’s no way we’re not going to get frustrated by that. I mean, we deserve to be frustrated by that.

This is a time when there’s a new baby in the house and we have a toddler or two toddlers. This is a time when we get ourselves through, all together, joining hands, joining hearts, letting our child in on this time. We’re just together as a family and there’s a lot of feelings and everybody’s tired and everybody’s frustrated and it’s hard. So we just do our best. That kind of bonding, I wouldn’t do it as a strategy, but it is a strategy in a way, because that’s how children are willing to do all these things. And they might put up a little, Oh no, I don’t want to. And if we can understand that, it’s short-lived. So I would back all of these attempts way back into just helping him get going and get through it.

It seems like the treats after dinner thing is not working so well right now if it’s becoming this negotiation. I wouldn’t let him get up in the middle of eating. There’s no need a child has to do that. I would say, really honestly, “This is time to eat. Just sit for as long as you want to eat. When you get up, that means you’re done. And maybe the treats aren’t working for us for a while.”

And then let him have those meltdowns, because those meltdowns are really what’s behind a lot of this resistance. It’s like this, I’m holding on, holding on, holding on because I need to explode and be unhappy about something. Which is really just my stress in this situation, my fear and this whole unraveling that I’m feeling about having this baby come into my life and take my parents’ attention away from me. Children do need to melt down around that. So the natural time for him to do that is when you’re being very reasonable about, This is how meals go. We sit. We eat. When you’re done, you’re done. And that’s okay, but we’re not going to hold out that you get a treat if you do this or you get that if you do that, or you get TV if you do this. So approaching those limits that you do have control over, offering them reasonably with love, but from a place of knowing he may need to share with us here. And then when he does, it’s not ridiculous that you’re having this overblown reaction to not getting your chocolate or not getting your TV. This is the venting that toddlers with babies need to do.

So instead of feeling disappointed or that we’ve done the wrong thing, frustrated because he’s not making sense, he could have done this other thing and avoided it and then he could have gotten his treat. Don’t go there. Just welcome that. Roll out the red carpet for him to feel that. Oh, you wanted that TV so much today and we didn’t have time. On his side, but still holding onto those reasonable boundaries.

I love that this dad said, “The strange thing is by then he’s like a completely different kid, often all smiley. It’s like the struggle just five minutes earlier never happened.” Yeah, it’s a symbolic struggle of, Everything’s not going great in my life right now. I’ve got this big crisis going on with this baby, and I just need to be in this mode. It’s not that he’s desperately incapable of doing these things. And that’s what I want to get back to because that’s how this parent finishes is, should he be worried by his child not seeming able to do these things and the parent doing them for him, that that’s going to somehow make him less capable? And it’s actually the opposite because when we realize the kind of emotional crisis that children go through with the addition of a sibling… Oftentimes, maybe not always, but oftentimes they do. And when we realize that, and it’s not, This is how I’m always going to be from here on out. Same with the other child in the first parent’s note. This is what’s going on right now, that I need a helping hand. I’m not at my best and maybe you’re not either as my parent who’s also dealing with it, but this is where I am. I need more help right now. And actually, if you can give it to me with love and staying on my side and my team, then it’s going to even set me up better to accomplish in those times that I can. Right now I’m showing you that I can’t.

It’s so easy as parents, I know, I remember this so much when my kids were little, that you just feel like this is going to be forever, whatever you’re going through. Or this is a bad sign. I remember during the winter season, it’s like, Oh, someone’s going to be sick forever. Children are constantly changing and growing and developing, and they always do show us when they’re struggling, when they need more help. And that’s what both of these children are showing in common ways, which is resisting, stalling. They’re waving little flags. Just help me! Just see me! Don’t do all this talking and trying and working around it. Just help me out here and see me as I am.

And I really hope some of this helps you or at least eases some of your worries about the direction your children are heading in. And thank you so much for listening. We can do this.

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