Professor Mom

Chronicles the life of a mom, teacher, and writer trying to stay sane amid the chaos of daily life.

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Omaha Mama's picture Omaha Mama

Oh my gosh! This is the exact conversation I've had so many times about my B. About her willful nature, her bold esteem. Lately, it's getting more and more obvious that I need to do just a little squashing. It has moved into the dreaded "I want to go first!" syndrome. So we are trying to help her start to see the beauty in caring for another's feelings. My dilemma has always been with the fact that my B is not a people pleaser (I am, sometimes to a fault). How to help her be empathetic, without making her become a doormat.

I'm no help at all. But I'll be back to see others' comments, maybe they'll have some good ideas!


Aliki McElreath's picture Aliki McElreath

Well let's hope we get some good feedback here--it's tricky. T. is a people-pleaser in a way, but then she also is a "my way or the highway" kind of person as well.


beck's picture beck

Milk spilled all through the fridge? That's just suppertime at my house. We're a family of spillers.

I don't think that's naughtiness, so much - she wasn't being deliberately bad. I'd have just had her help clean up and then have a talk about the difference between things that can spill and things that can't.

I worry much more about my son than I do my daughters, actually, although I don't worry about squashing their spirits with normal amounts of discipline. There are rules and they have to follow them, the end, and any normal spirit shouldn't be crushed too badly by that. The Baby, so far, shows no signs of having any of her spunkiness even TEMPERED by her no-fun parents.


Aliki McElreath's picture Aliki McElreath

I agree--she didn't get in trouble for the milk because she wasn't deliberately trying to be bad (although she'd been told not to go into the fridge at dinner). T.'s spirit is very strong-willed, so she often goes against what you tell her because she just must find out on her own what will happen, no matter what you tell her! I hope in time she'll learn to temper this and accept advice...


twinmama's picture twinmama

I have 4.5 year old twins, a boy and girl. Man are they different! G, my son, is outgoing and charming down to his marrow, and E, my delightful daughter is as strong willed as they come. Like T, she is never contented with second hand information. She, too, must try on her own and see what happens. What has been most effective for me is setting clearly defined rules, and picking my battles wisely because they are inevitable. At this point, "advice" to her is something she can make a deliberate choice to follow or not. Rules harbor no such options. That said, I try to give her advice about things she can safely attempt, or for which the natural consequences will point her in the right direction, such as "E.. you might want to take a jacket with you. It's cold outside." If she does, then hey, she listened. If she doesn't she usually stops several feet outside the door, turns around, and gets her jacket. If she leaves the jacket regardless and she gets cold, I can gently remind her the next time " Remember yesterday when you had to leave your friends early and come in because you got too cold?"
Some of her behaviors, however, have me totally baffled. Tonight for instance, as we were starting our bedtime routine, I laid out the kids' pajamas. Everyone brushed their teeth and went potty, and I gave them time to get dressed so we could all sit down and read. ( Avi's book Things That Sometimes Happen is AWESOME by the way)! E decided not to dress herself. She said she didn't want to.. Actually, she stomped her foot and crossed her arms and said " I want YOU to do it!" Granted she was tired, but the rule is, dress yourself. G (dressed and ready) and I went into his room to read, and closed the door. I made it abundantly clear that she could join us at any time, so long as her pajamas were on. Stubborn as a mule, she refused to dress. Instead, for the next 15 minutes, a sound similar to two tomcats fighting inside a steel trashcan emanated from the hall. This was accompanied by a good deal of banging and kicking, and her first ever threat to run away. It wasn't that E didn't want pajamas on.. she did; it's cold here. She just didn't want to do it herself. G and I kept on reading, and eventually she put the pajama shirt on, opting to go without the pants as if to say " See.. you can't get your way entirely!" and came in and read stories with us. The shirt was her way of compromising, and I was OK with that, but I could certainly have done without the caterwauling!
My mantra to myself is " These are attributes that will eventually lead her to be a self-minded woman of purpose." ( I hope)
But I also want both of my children to understand they have a responsibility to consider the needs and wants of those around them as well. They are part of a functional unit.. our family.


Aliki McElreath's picture Aliki McElreath

Thanks for your wonderful comment twinmama! First of all, we LOVE Avi around here...and yes, your daughter sounds a lot like my T. She will sometimes stubbornly insist on doing things her way even though she's clearly the one paying the price--and even though I know that deep down she realizes she's being unreasonable, but pure stubbornness is keeping her from backing down.

But you're right--I do think these characteristics could serve our daughters well--they just need to learn some flexibility along the way!