Tonight, I was planning to report on my various resolutions and challenges and give an update on how the kids have been doing. Instead, I come to the computer in the grip of a discouraging dilemma that reared its ugly head in the final hours of our weekend.
Downstairs on the floor near the dining room table lies Zoe’s new ski jacket. In bed lies Zoe, asleep now, but not long ago defiantly proclaiming that she will NEVER pick that jacket up from the floor. I, on the other hand, am feeling pretty strongly that I, too, will never pick that jacket up from the floor. AND I am certain that I am RIGHT!
So, there you have it: A classic power struggle. How did it happen? And, more importantly, how do we fix it?
Quick back story: We spent the afternoon in Blowing Rock Park. Zoe and Zander played with their friends while my friend Leslie and I played tennis. Then we took all the kids out for ice cream. We were home by early evening. The kids watched a half hour of TV and then played together, giggling and acting crazy in a pile of warm laundry on the bed. The plan was a light dinner (very light — like a bowl of cereal or a bagel), and then the family would play a game together before bed time.
When Zoe and I went downstairs to get her some food, I noticed her jacket was still on the floor where she had dropped it when she came in. I had asked her already to hang it up. I asked her again. She said she would pick it up after she ate. I said she needed to do it now. She refused. And so it began.
The coat was not picked up. Zoe did not have dinner or play a game with us. Nor did she have her evening tea. As the saga unfolded, I felt myself filled with a fiery indignation. A litany of questions raced through my mind: How could my child be so spoiled? How could she be so irrational as to not see that it was her responsibility and no one else’s to pick up the coat? How could I possibly continue to do things for her when she would not do even this small task?
The day ended with the problem not solved and with everyone feeling cruddy. At this moment, I’m no closer to a solution. I can’t take away the coat. It’s new and nice, and Zoe needs it for winter. I don’t actually want to leave it on the floor, since the whole point is that we don’t leave things on the floor, because that makes our home messy and chaotic and less enjoyable. I’ve checked Positive Discipline A to Z, but haven’t found a spot-on answer yet.
Oh, and did I mention, Zoe is a tough nut to crack? I have no doubt she can outlast me in any battle of wills. But, honestly, as alluring as it may be to win this power struggle, I really don’t want to “crack” her. I want my daughter to learn lessons for the right reasons — to act out of a sense of responsibility and caring, not because she feels threatened or because I’ve broken her spirit. I want her to have pride in doing things for herself, rather than measuring her power in her ability to manipulate others into doing things for her.
So, right now, I’m coming up short on ideas. I know I’m still mad. And I know it’s hard to problem solve when you’re angry. I hope that in the morning, with sleep and a little distance, I’ll discover some new wisdom — a little parenting magic — to bring to this situation. That’s the best I can do for now.