“It’s not about being right, it’s about getting the right outcome.” This applies to everyone and everything in my life, but oh how it applies to a four-year-old! Four has been our hardest year yet with K (I might have said that about 2 and 3 also). She was always an easy-going baby and a surprisingly easy-going toddler, we basically skipped the terrible-twos and the trying-threes, but we are now immersed in the “f”ing-fours” (can’t claim that term as my own unfortunately)! I don’t think we’d ever had a public tantrum until this year. And let me preface this with saying that K is actually a relatively mild-mannered kid, but being my first time with a four-year old, it seems difficult to me – I have a feeling my littlest one will be 10 times worse! Some things about four are much easier, like the fact that she can pick out her own clothes, get dressed, put her shoes on, feed herself, use the potty, survive if left unattended while I take a shower or, God forbid, pee in privacy. But, oh the assertion of independence is major these days; which is good of course, I wouldn’t want anything else for my little girl, however the in’s and out’s of dealing with those moments on a daily basis can wear me down.
We can get into a “situation” over anything from how much to eat for breakfast, which car door to enter or exit, brushing and flossing her teeth, if I’ve prematurely peaked in the backseat to see if her seatbelt is on (she likes to buckle it herself and OMG if she’s not finished when I check it), or how many books to read at bedtime (12 was the demand the other night). These situations can so quickly escalate to a full-blown meltdown for her – and I’m sure my quickly rising anxiety during these times doesn’t help her at all. So, this is something I’m vowing to work on. As a parent, I’ve believed in the past that if I don’t enforce the rules and make her obey at the very moment that we have an issue, then all hell will break loose and the child will never follow a rule again in her life. I’m trying to approach this a different way because I’ve noticed that my pushing during these moments is intensifying her frustration and resistance. My goal is to think of the quote above, “it’s not about being right, but about getting the right outcome.” During her meltdowns I’ve noticed that it helps most to stop and just give K a big hug. If she can get this emotional support and calm down, she can almost always get into a space where she can talk and think rationally. At that point she will devise a plan on her own to get whatever task we were arguing over accomplished. Really, what an amazing kid! What I would like to avoid is the meltdown where she is crying and I am yelling/frustrated/anxious/boiling over and go right to the stop – hug – talk – plan phase. This will be hard because my patience with the timing of a preschooler is constantly being tested in these situations. I am not a patient person, never have been. This new approach may seem like it will take more time than me putting my foot down and demanding she follow the rules (which rarely works) but I think that in the end, avoiding the meltdown will probably save all of us time.
So, think about the outcome and try to take a different path. Let go of being right and focus on completing the job in a different way. Because if in the end I can teach my child the task at hand, regardless of how we get there (her listening to my demands or her devising her own plan), then I am accomplishing what I wanted in the first place – to teach her that certain rules in life must be followed.