I have two kids, and their personalities are quite different. My son, Max, is a bit shy, can be quite introspective, and often aims to please. He is much like I was, when I was younger. My daughter, Holly, is bold and outspoken, volunteers to snuggle anyone including strangers, loudly shares with you five times in a row her latest observation or request, and aims for attention. She is a combination of my sister (famous for loving laps when she was very small) and sister-in-law, when they were young (and perhaps me, too, when I started to grow out of my shyness and found my voice).
When we were trying to teach Max to replace his fingers with utensils, when eating dinner, or to use the toilet rather than a diaper, I could set up something like a star chart and convince him pretty easily to use it. Some skills were easier than others to teach and learn, but typically he became a master of a new skill in a short time, and was quite proud of it, ready for a new challenge to please his parents.
I have tried all of the same approaches with Holly, with limited success, and have sought the help of friends and family to come up with new approaches. She is ultimately stubborn if we push her too hard, and our interactions can escalate to a full blown power struggle, with yelling on both sides. Luckily, I’ve been able to remove myself from these escalated emotional situations enough to realize what they are – two stubborn people vying for control.
Dogs CAN learn new tricks, and this dog (me), in all of my inherent stubbornness, am trying a new tack. My husband is along for the ride, and we are both letting Holly decide when she’ll apply her skills to eat with a fork or spoon, not yell, and poop in the potty rather than her diaper. It’s been a week of intention for her to be in control, and while I cannot say she is much better at eating or using the bathroom than she was a month ago, I am reaping the benefits. No longer is her behavior stressing me out like it was before, and no longer are there the abundance of tantrums or tears there were before.
Parents are the overseers of so much, like it or not. We plan meals and play dates, pay mortgages, patch up scraped knees, coach our kids in sports and exercise, expose our kids to culture and diversity, hug away nightmares, and explain away the violence, sexuality, cursing, ignorance, and plenty of other things we cannot shield our kids from. We also worry – am I treating a long-lasting illness with the right medicine*? Is it OK to use plastic in the kitchen? It’s a huge, stressful job, with plenty of rewards along the way. And even more if we don’t try to take on too much, don’t try to control too much.
So I’m reveling in my renewed discovery that there is power, and there need not be struggles for it all of the time. As our kids grow older, they want power, and they will have it – let’s give them some, bit by bit! The end result: responsible children with clear insight to their abilities and some creative strategies for working through problems.
My kids love going on hikes, because they know that they will be treated the same way as adults outside. They often have a voice in which trail we take. They can hike at the front, middle, or rear of the group. They can find cool stuff like insects, poop, leaves, tracks, or flowers to show to the group. They can help pick when and where we take breaks. They can volunteer their first aid kits if someone needs a bandaid. Even though I’ve been hiking with them for years, it’s funny how I forget how much they relish “being into their own” on a hike. It’s a good lesson I need to remember at home, too. They can oversee our world, too! They are quite content when given this power, and you can see it on their faces (photo, top).
* Medical support for our kids is stressful, expensive, and being revised all of the time by science, policy, and other experts. If you want to learn about medical treatment using pure plant (and other) derivatives, join Stroller Hikes at a free class presented by Jessica Kazmucha at Cupertino Whole Foods’ classroom September 19th at 7:30 PM. You can learn more about this option, which a lot of families are trying, rather than more conventional processed and/or synthetic medicines. Adults only, please. For more information, see the announcement below (if you are reading the newsletter) or http://strollerhikes/events/. RSVPs are required, as there are a limited number of spots for this class.
– Debbie (Founder and President, Stroller Hikes), Max (7), Holly (3), and Andrew