July 30, 2012 by Melissa
As a parent of a three year old, I’ve been a big advocate of choosing battles. There are natural laws at work-I need to conserve my energy and good mood for more important things in the course of any given day. The last month or so, however, has been a battle over every tiny thing. Lucy has driven me to tears most days in her quest to discover the limits of my control and her independence. I get that. I do appreciate that that is what’s going on, but I’m tired. I give.
It started as battles at dinner. Her not eating, not eating enough, not wanting to eat what I made, interrupting dinner to go to the bathroom, etc. It has devolved into taking the requested bites, then spitting out the food, making a choice for a food then crying when it’s on her plate, saying she’s not hungry despite 10 minutes earlier melting down because she was, saying she’s done eating then asking for food 20 minutes later. Oh. My. God.
She’s always been a good eater in the sense that she’ll try anything, she loves her fruits and veggies, she drinks her milk. And I’ve never wanted to make meals anything negative. I’ve been dreading meals as of late. I want her to eat but don’t want to force her. I want her to be respectful of the family time but is that unrealistic at this age? When she says she’s done and asks to be excused do I say “OK” and let her go play by herself? I’m trying to decide what I want most from her-ultimately I want her to eat and not demand food in an hour or be crabby because she’s hungry. But will she be crabby anyway? Ugh.
Lucy has also taken to regressing on tasks she can normally do well: wiping her own nose, going to the bathroom on her own, getting undressed, getting her shoes on, etc. She now is throwing all out tantrums when asked to do these things, demanding and yelling for help. What is this? I know she’s an easily frustrated child and being three certainly doesn’t help. She wants to do things herself but she wants to do them perfectly the first time. I understand the frustration on her part but I’m emotionally exhausted.
We are only responding to her when she uses kind and polite words but we have to ask for it every time. I’m waiting for it to sink in and be learned. Will I be waiting years for that?
Which battles are worth fighting? What should we ignore? These are the consuming threads of conversation in our house. Do we most want a peaceful mealtime or one where food is consumed? Do I want politeness or self reliance? Which battles should she win? I realized a few days ago that I need to let her win a few. It’s demoralizing to never be heard and if she wins something minor (in my eyes) it makes the next issues less dramatic and she’s more likely to agree. That’s how I would be, too. You heard me last time so I know you’re listening, Mom.
This is all just throwing me for a loop. Lucy has always been such a sweet (aka compliant) child. I do love that she’s finding a voice but really just want her to say “Yes, Mama,” one time. Am I asking for the world?
Phrases I Utter At Least 100 Times a Day:
-Let’s say that over again, but in a kind way.
-How do we ask for things, Lucy?
-I can’t understand you when you whine like that.
-You don’t talk to me like that.
-Do you need some time to yourself?
-You can do that yourself.