written by Meredith Barth
I thought I was teaching my timid little boy to stand up for himself against other toy-stealing, body-pushing tots. Turns out I was giving myself the best tool imaginable to stop my parental anger dead in its tracks.
Jackson is the most sensitive and inclusive little soul I’ve ever met. At two and a half he has maturity so far beyond his years it’s staggering. And part of helping him navigate life with these beautiful traits is teaching him when to be assertive.
To protect him from becoming everyone’s doormat, I’ve given him phrases like “It’s not okay to take things from me” and “I’m going to keep this. You can have a turn when I’m done.” And in cases of physical attack, minor as they may be among two year olds, he has learned how to throw his red-light hand out in front of him with a strong “Stop! You can’t touch me like that.”
These tools have allowed him to approach peer play with confidence. Where he once shied away and preferred to play on his own, he now jumps in, knowing he’s capable of handling conflict should it arise. It was as if his power was lying dormant and those phrases helped him access it.
|Image: Floyd Brown|
So I gave him some new phrases: Mommy, please talk to me more respectfully; Mommy, it’s not okay to talk to me like that; Mommy, I feel sad/scared when you say that.
I told him that no one, not even Mommy, was allowed to treat him with disrespect. I gave him permission to stand up to me and the tools to make it possible, even at his young age.
I wanted to give back the power my anger was stealing from him through intimidation. And it worked. Instead of becoming a puddle in front of me or retreating, he stood tall and confronted me with these phrases. And let me tell you, nothing will bring your anger to a screeching halt like those words from the mouth of your precious child.
I would love to ditch my desire for control and communicate respectfully at all times. It’s my dream to be an always-patient, always-loving mother to him. But that’s not our reality right now, and, quite honestly, it probably never will be.
I can’t give him an ideal mother, but I can give him the tools to cope with an imperfect one.
writer and web editor, leader of her local Holistic Moms Network chapter, and active member of La Leche League. She’s passionate about holistic living and community building, and is openly and authentically blogging her way through parenting struggles one day at a time.