I’m not that traditional, but everything “kind of normal to society” is optional to my daughter: wiping her dirty but after using the potty, washing her dirty hands before putting them in her mouth… I had pinworm for two years because I couldn’t stop her from sticking her dirty hands in my and her mouth for two years.
My daughter doesn’t just hurt herself when she won’t take health and safety advice from me, she hurts other people in the family too. I had less nutrition for my growing baby, when I was pregnant with my son, because of my daughters never ending paracites that she shared with me (that felt horrible), but it’s an unavoidable cost that we pay to have the great parts of her in our lives.
I haven’t given up on trying to keep my daughter safe, and trying to advocate health and hygiene, and make normal routines like hand washing override what she wants to do (run off to play without handwashing), but I’ve made peace with the fact that a certain percent of the time I will fail, because my daughter is a rebel, not because I suck as a human being.
Other parents may have better behaved children, other parents may be kinder to their children, other parents may have a better relationship with their children, or do more enrichment activities with their children, but I do a good job with the real life situation that I have within my capacities as a human being.
There are parts of my daughter that I do want to change and parts that I don’t want to change. When I say I am don’t want to change “her” anymore, I mean her soul, her personality, her “higher self,” but it doesn’t mean that I can’t tell her we don’t steal or try not to hurt the baby (head butting his nose when you flop down on the bed for fun – that happened today) or we put trash in the trash can not the floor.
Some people say don’t try to change kids, but I will continue to try to change my daughter, not because I’m uncomfortable with her being different or because I want to meet the satus quo or I don’t want to be judged for her outbursts, but because I love her.
Discipline to me means teaching with kindness, what is wrong and right (sure it’s situational, but there is a wrong and right, punching her four month old baby brother when she is frustrated is so wrong). Discipline, even in a kind manner, is a very ugly, tireing job, but to skip teaching what is expected ie discipline, is a form of neglect. I grew up without discipline, it was scary not knowing what punishments would come if my parents did get mad. They didn’t make any rules, but when they got mad they punished us unexpectedly, it made me really afraid of emotions instead of being afraid of misbehaving. Discipline is not bad, like guns are not bad, it’s the way that it is used that matters. Is the intent teaching with love? If so the method probably works. If the intent is to punish a child for making a parent be uncomfortable in some way, that’s not really discipline.
There are things I never want to change about my daughter, that she is creative, that she is empathetic, that she doesn’t blindly follow, but I do want to force her not to cut people with knives and garden shears, I do want to force her to not kill people and eat them (which is what she says she wants to do when she grows up, because I showed her a Youtube video saying not to do that), I do want to force her to wash her hands (so no one else in our family gets pinworm again), I do want to force her to not hit the baby when she is mad. I don’t want to change “her” thoughts, feelings, personality, soul, but I do want to change her beliefs, actions, understanding of cause and effect, hygiene and safety practices, out of love for her and a belief she will have a better life if she learns to be kind as she stands up for herself and be a gentle friend to the people who she wants to keep around her.
Sometimes it gets really confusing to know what I want to change, and what I should never try to change, but I have to take the responsibility for bringing my kids into this world by making the best decisions that I can out of love and hope that what I do is enough to let my kids someday enter the world ready to be confident in who they are, yet not shoot other people on a whim or because they had a bad day.
I recently read a good post, by Dr. Fawzy Masaoud, about mental health in sibling relationships, that helped me get more insight into my daughter’s internal struggles. Since the first child, my daughter, was the center of attention for three years, she is trying to act like our baby, to get the attention back. She swings in the baby swing, walks in the baby walker, chews on the baby’s teething keys ext. we tried to stop her at first, but she does it with such a strong compulsion that since it hasn’t caused any real problems, I stopped trying to stop her. It may seem obvious to everyone else, but I really didn’t know my daughter was doing it for attention… I thought she wanted to use the new stuff, just because it was new. Although I plan to give her attention and love, I think it’s going to be more important for her to get used to having less than it would be for me to try to tend a three year old and a four month old with exactly the same amount of attention. I was also the oldest child and the habit of expecting more attention is due to me than what other people want to give me caused problems in my marriage. Sometimes having less can be a blessing, because it gives you exercise at developing gratitude, then even if you get more you know how to be happy with what you have.