...is to be more stubborn than your child.
Okay, that's a bit simplistic. But as Chickie grows and I see more of her strong will developing, I'm realizing that sticking to my guns is both vital and difficult.
It all started yesterday morning. I think that old Funky Fairy had paid Chickie a visit overnight, because she was grumpy and emotional. So when I asked her to clean up newspaper that she'd strewn across the dining room floor, she was determined not to do it.
Actually, she was willing to obey, but only if I helped her. I do often help her clean up, but I think it's also important for her to learn to do simple chores by herself. I was busy doing other things, like sweeping up a glass bowl I'd shattered, and I told her the newspaper was her job.
And thus the first shot of World War III was fired.
When Chickie repeatedly refused to pick up the paper, I told her she needed to go into her room with the door closed. That's usually akin to torture for her, but yesterday she actually wanted to be there. After a couple of minutes of non-punishment, I gave her another chance to clean up the paper.
"I don't want to! Mommy, help me!"
Next she was sentenced to her time out chair (her high chair.) I told her she'd need to stay there until she was ready to clean up the paper.
Over an hour later, she finally got down, crying, and began to angrily throw newspaper sections onto the table. She took a furious bite out of one section. Occasionally she stopped to cry and scream, but by the time she finished her task, she'd calmed down. I gave her a big hug, a tuna fish sandwich, and a nap.
That hour and fifteen minutes or so, with her in the high chair, really tested both of our limits. There was a whole lot of screaming and crying on her part, and a whole lot of calm resolve on mine. I give God credit for me not losing my temper, as that's something I've been praying will be changed in me.
At times I was choked up, hating to see her so miserable but knowing she needed to learn this lesson. At other times I was choking down laughter; an overly dramatic little girl can be very entertaining. About three quarters of the way through her imprisonment, I smelled something.
"Chickie, did you poop?"
"No," she replied. Then, overcome with emotion, the truth came out as a crying wail. "I TOOOTED (sob, sob, sob)!"
As I wondered if she'd be in that chair all day, I imagined that this conflict was a crossroads. If I stayed strong, she'd develop into a productive member of society, respecting authority and law. If I caved, she'd soon be dealing drugs to her playgroup buddies and searching the Internet for undetectable arson techniques.
I knew it wasn't quite that dramatic, but I also knew that as hard as it can be on both of us, it is vital for this sweet child to learn to obey her parents' reasonable instructions.
When all was said and done, the competitive, stubborn part of me rejoiced that I'd "won." But later in the day, I asked her to put up her toys, and she did it, without arguing or complaining. And I knew the truth.
Chickie may not have gotten her way yesterday morning. But when she cleaned up that newspaper by herself, she won.