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Who is in control?

December 30, 2009

A close friend called me recently, frustrated about a glitch in her daughter’s napping routine.  Since birth, her daughter has been a great napper.  But my friend had just spent the past 90 minutes trying to get her daughter to take a nap.  One and a half hours later, momma was frustrated and her daughter was tired.  But still awake.  Now she was stuck because they were late for an appointment and she threatened something she couldn’t possibly follow through on.  What to do?

Parenting is HARD.  Naps are important!  For kids and for parents!  Naps give us both the opportunity to recharge.  While our kids get needed shut eye, we can finally eat lunch, do a load of dishes, or just enjoy the silence of our normally raucous home.  In my friend’s case, she has two children and the benefits of a simultaneous nap are more than just double.

It is so easy and so common to get wrapped up in what’s going on RIGHT NOW that we can’t take a step back and look at the big picture.  Thankfully, that’s what friends are for.

Lesson #1- When you think you’re about to lose it- call a friend.  Perhaps an outsider’s perspective is really all you need.

Lesson #2- Don’t get into power struggles with your children that you can’t possibly win!

HOLD ON!  You mean, there are times as a parent when we aren’t completely in control of our children?!?!?!  I’m willing to bet, actually, that the moments we aren’t in control FAR outweigh the moments we ARE in control.

Things we can’t control:

Sleeping.

Eating.

Potty training.

Breathing.

You get the idea.   In her book “Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense,” Ellyn Satter tells us that as parents, our job is to decide “what.”  The child’s job is to decide “when” and “how much.”  So we can provide our children with a variety of healthy and nutritious snacks and meals.   The kiddos get to decide if they eat it, when, and how much.  Because really- short of holding your child down, prying open their mouths, and then opening and closing their jaws in a chewing motion, there isn’t much you can do to force your child to eat.  (I’m not suggesting you try- trust me on this one).

Sleep is pretty similar.  As parents, we can create structure and routine.  A relaxing bedtime ritual.  A daily routine that lends itself to nap time.  You can develop a time and place that is conducive to sleep- close the blinds, white noise, a quick massage.  But think for a moment about how you would actually force your child to sleep.

Are you stumped?  Right.  Because again, short of bungee cording them to the bed and taping their eyes shut, you can’t.  And even bungee cords and tape would only ensure that they stayed in their beds and looked like they were sleeping.

It’s possible that I have touched on two of your most frustrating parenting issues.  And I realize that I’ve offered you no solutions (that’s for another blog entry!  Keep checking back!).  Sometimes just changing your perspective is enough.  Not enough to fix the problem.  But enough to make the problem less frustrating.

The next time you find yourself entering a power struggle with your toddler, preschooler, teenager…think for a moment.  Can I possible win this? If the answer is “no” think for an extra moment before you engage in that power struggle.

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