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All about Parenting Toddlers, Issue #031 - Are You Letting Your Children Manipulate You?
January 19, 2005
Shaping the life of your precious onesAll about Parenting Toddlers
19th January 2005
Welcome to the first issue of All about Parenting Toddlers for 2005. I would like to wish all of you a Blessed New Year. May you have a good and wonderful year ahead of you.
In This Issue:
1. Are You Letting Your Children Manipulate You?
Are You Letting Your Children Manipulate You?
Rachael is the young mother of Nathan, who just turned two. Rachael is a stay-at-home mother who works part-time at home and has the help of a housekeeper five days a week. Rachael consulted with me because of her problems with Nathan.
“When Nathan is with David (her husband), he’s fine. He adores David and listens well to him. When he’s with Amalia (her housekeeper), he’s fine. He loves her and plays calmly with her. But when he’s with me, he’s impossible. He throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. He goes to sleep easily at night for David but not for me. I want so much to be a good mother and I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. I never get angry with him but sometimes I feel like throwing him across the room! I need help!”
“Rachael, when you are with Nathan, what do you think is more important to you – to get him to love you or to be loving to yourself?”
Rachael replied instantly. “To get him to love me. I never think about loving myself. I just want him to love me. If he loves me, then I know that I’m a good mother.”
“And what does it say about you if you are a good mother?”
“It means that I’m okay,”
“So you have handed to Nathan the job of defining your worth. He has to love you for you to be okay. What do you think is most important to David?”
“Oh, David takes good care of himself. He really doesn’t seem concerned about whether or not Nathan loves him. He’s very loving to Nathan, but if David wants to eat dinner when Nathan want to play with him, he just eat dinner and Nathan seems to accept it. If I want to have my breakfast when Nathan wants to play, Nathan has a tantrum.”
“Rachael, Nathan has learned that he can manipulate you because you are so concerned with how he feels about you. As long as his loving you is more important to you than taking loving care of yourself, he will be able to manipulate you. This is not good for him or for you. It is too big a burden on him to have the responsibility of defining your worth. As long as your worth is attached to being a good mother, Nathan will be able to manipulate you.”
“I can see that. Amalia is like David. If she has work to do, she just expects Nathan to play by himself, and he does. She loves him, but she is firm about what she needs to do. I can see that I give in all the time because I don’t want him to be upset with me. What can I do now to change this?”
“First of all, you need to consciously detach your worth from being a good mother. You need to do some inner work on defining your worth separately from being a mother. Your sense of worth needs to be attached to who you are – your kindness, compassion, empathy, warmth, aliveness. You need to take responsibility for defining your own worth rather than making Nathan, David, or anyone else responsible.
“Second, you need to care about taking care of yourself as much as you care about taking care of Nathan. Nathan is a brat with you because you don’t care about yourself when you are with him, so he has learned to not care about you. You are teaching him not to care about you when you do not care about yourself.”
“Okay, I think I get this. I’m really going to try to do it differently.”
Next week when we spoke in our phone session, Rachael reported that things had already dramatically changed. Nathan was listening to her, going right to sleep when she put him down, and seemed happier in general. His tantrums had not yet completely stopped, but they were far fewer. Rachael, too, felt happier because she was finally taking care of herself and her own needs. For the first time since giving birth to Nathan, she was having some time to herself.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?" She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding emotional and spiritual healing process. Learn Inner Bonding now! Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone Sessions Available.
Last week in my newsletter, I mentioned that my children knew how to behave in nice restaurants because they had been exposed to the atmosphere at an early age. My idea of well behaved might be different from yours, however, I think there are certain basics that are important and universal.
When my daughters were babies, we would take them wherever we went. If they began to fuss or cry, one of us would promptly remove them from the room/restaurant/market/wherever. Not because we felt their crying or fussing was a bad thing. No, it's a perfectly normal occurrence for infants and toddlers. We removed them as a courtesy to others who we felt did not need to be as tolerant as we were with our children's noise. In consequence, my daughters know that other people are not as wildly in love with their racket or with them as we are. Nor should they be expected to be.
As our children grew older, they were always told the rules of our outings, how to behave and to always speak softly if other adults were present. Sometimes, it's fine to let them get a little crazy ... just know your audience! If we are at a five star restaurant where many other diners have come to enjoy a gracious and expensive meal, would we expect everyone there to be enthralled with junior's vocal or behavioral outbursts? Would we really expect them to care if our child is having a bout with walking pneumonia and coughing uncontrollably? Nope. It's rude. And rudeness is basically nothing more than bad manners. If there is an emergency with your child, by all means don't give a flying flamingo about what others think. But this is the exception. Besides, children who are that sick belong at home, not in public.
Last night, my girls and I were in a department store. There was a toddler carrying on and screaming for more than 15 minutes when my younger daughter said:
"Now his mommy is going to tell him to stop because there are other people in here that don't want to hear it!"
Unfortunately, his mommy did not tell him any such thing. She let him wail and scream and cry, much to the chagrin and annoyance of everyone else in the store. You know what? As much as I love kids and cannot bear to see or hear them suffering, I disliked this kid immensely!
My reasoning is this: if our kids learn that they are free to trample on the peace, space or rose gardens of others, they will develop into spoiled and inconsiderate brats. And then who will like them? Who will want to spend time with them? Who, besides their forgiving parents, will be able to tolerate their lack of social graces and good manners? No one except maybe another ill-mannered person who feels at home with a similarly clueless individual. Do we really want our children reduced to such horrible options? I think not. We teach our children not to steal, lie or punch their brother in the nose. Shouldn't we teach them respect for others at the same time? That their whining and out-of-control behavior is something no one really wants to hear or witness, especially strangers who have no vested interest in their developing minds or self-esteem? A simple reminder of the rules, consistently, works wonders ... eventually. ;-)
Good luck. Kids need to learn manners and social graces. They will go farther in life if we teach them well.
Rexanne Mancini is the mother of two daughters. She maintains an extensive yet informal parenting and family web site, Rexanne.com – http://www.rexanne.com -Visit her site for good advice, award-winning Internet holiday pages and some humor to help you cope. Subscribe to her free newsletter, Rexanne’s Web Review, for a monthly dose of Rexanne: http://www.rexanne.com/rwr-archives.html
Wish you could work from home and spend more time with your toddler/young children? Here are some of the things you could do right from the comfort of your *home* ….. ___________________________________________________________________
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