The “threenager” years have hit us like a wrecking ball. The “terrible twos” were nothing. We had blissful days of learning to use a big boy cup. I could easily pick out the cutest of his outfits to send him off for school pictures. Then he turned 3. Then he gained an opinion.
Then he told me, “You can’t make me”.
I’m sorry-what did I just hear?
“You can’t make me.”
I think to myself: I’m the mom; I birthed you! I can make you do whatever I want!
Oh, how quickly he proved me wrong. The tantrums began. How is it possible to make someone so small so angry over sitting in a booster seat at lunch? The very seat he’s been sitting in for months. Yet, if I threaten to take lunch away, his fit only worsens? Escalating to that high-octave scream which is the precursor to the dreaded hiccup cry. Why do these tot battles always occur when my 10 month-old is watching innocently in her high chair and taking mental notes on how to enslave me one day? This is the kind of tomfoolery that pulls at my shoulder muscles as I check my watch for a countdown to Daddy’s after-work arrival.
Before I knew it, we were arguing over everything. The power struggles began. No matter item what I offered, new or old. In his eyes, it was the worst idea of all time. He hated his favorite blue sippy cup. He wouldn’t be caught dead in that t-shirt at Mother’s Day Out. One frazzled morning I frantically ran back and forth between both children. Changing blowouts, chilling teethers, making breakfast, changing cartoon channels, dispensing allergy meds, and narrowly escaping the baby swallowing a Band-Aid.
I was out of breath and felt like I had run a marathon. How had I already done all the things but we hadn’t even dressed for school yet? At 8:30 a.m.I already had no fight left in me for the day. I took a deep breath and pulled a shirt from his drawer. Two shirts emerged in my haphazard grasp so I offered them both. At this point, I didn’t really care what he wore as long as we made it to school on time for once.
“Which one do you want to wear, the green tank top or the orange striped shirt?”
“The green one”. He came forward, grabbed it, and put it over his head.
Okay, okay. Don’t poke the bear. Let me try this again.
“Do you want the blue shorts or these red shorts?”
“The blue shorts.”
I kept up this game with socks. With shoes. With sippy cups to pack in his lunch pail. Choices were seemingly becoming my new bargaining chip of sanity. We stopped fighting. We stopped crying (yes, both of us). We cut our get ready time in half. I learned how to be on the “choices offense” pretty quick. As long as I gave him the option of a choice, he gave me an answer.
If only I’d been offering these choices all along. Children seek independence at a very young age and in doing so, tantrums often occur. Their need for autonomy shines through and offering choices is the best way to meet those needs.
One of the surprising things I’ve learned about parenting is accepting the fact that we don’t have all the answers. When did the norm become the adults making the rules? ALL the rules? Giving choices has shown both of us how to work together. To respect the other’s opinions. I now realize I don’t want to make him do anything. I want to give him the knowledge and confidence to make the choice for himself.
Sarah is a stay-at-home mom born and raised in OKC. She met her husband in kindergarten and they have been following each other around ever since. Sarah stays busy playing trains with her son and chasing after her crawling daughter. Her house is loud and rowdy with two 70-pound labs who steal baby kisses all day long. Sarah is an OU alum and loves Sooner football. With a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education, she has taught nursery school, three and four year-old prek, first grade, and third grade. Sarah has worked with children of all abilities and taught in England. Hobbies include baking treats, pretty patios, and movie quotes. She documents life, cooking, and parenting on her blog: LollipopsandHoney.com and can also be found on Instagram.