“I Can Be Friendly or Firm”

mom_looking_at_daughter

by Rebecca Lemar

“I don’t want to nap!” Pink screams and rubs her eyes and fake cries.   We have been here before. Usually during a transition. That friendly little angel we saw a minute ago “stinks it up”, we say around here.

The problem is not necessarily that she is being naughty. The problem is I am not reaching her and we have an end goal—a nap, and I am on the verge of losing patience.

I am proud my daughter is strong. I view the two year old as a beautiful work of art. With lovely righteous spirits and crazy cute pot bellies, they just bulldoze the weak. They are mini CEOs and world leaders. They squash grasshoppers, touch everything at the store, and state the obvious with real declaration: I am standing! There is a bug on my arm! You have a nose!

In these battles of please put your shoes on or pick up your crayons, I have tried relating. I have tried firmness. I have tried ignoring her.   All with great failure, but one thing that really works is CHOICE.

I say: I can be friendly or I can be firm, which do you choose?

Choice does two things. One, its for me. It stops the momentum. I have killed the heat and I can compose.   Two, its for her. The power is in her court. She has a decision to make. She gets control, and that is what she wants.

You may think it’s a no brainer and every child will say friendly, but I kid you not, I hear, “I want firm!” every so often and you can imagine the smile that follows. Her eyes sparkle wildly, my little fireball, and she’s excited to see mama firm.

Firm is a tone of voice. It is low warmth, and high control. I speak short, direct, fully forward and I take no shit. I physically assist her and I ignore her crying. I buckle her in or I put her shoes on and I firmly say, “You chose firm.”

Friendly, on the other hand, is soft, kind, smiley and supportive. It is high warmth and low control. The fighting is over and now she must do what I have asked (or she loses the choice) while I remain friendly. “You chose friendly.”

Sometimes we will be at the dinner table and my little fireball will say, “Let’s play firm!” and she’ll make a firm face and then we do firm faces together and end with real laughter. My husband agrees this is the only thing that works. And my girlfriend overheard me in one of Pink’s righteous moments and has started using it and agrees that it works for her too. Her girl plays the same games, asking for firm.

Some children really need firm. And sometimes they need friendly. Children are experimental, testing the world and the consistency around them. What I am teaching my child is that I am strong. And I can shift from friendly or firm, which are both accessible on a dime. The success comes from letting HER decide the tone of assistance.

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