My husband and I are blessed with a strong-willed daughter. We know that her determination and persistence will be beneficial in the long run, but there are times when these traits drive me absolutely bonkers! We joke that until recently, her file was marked difficult patient at our pediatrician’s office. It can be difficult to keep my cool when she goes into full blown meltdown mode because she can’t wear her Anna dress to bed. It’s terrifying when she throws herself down in the street crying because I had the audacity to insist that she hold my hand when crossing the street. It’s baffling when she kicks and screams because I messed up the lyrics when singing “Into the Unknown” for the 15th time in a row. (Frozen is life!) So, how do I keep my cool when my patience is worn thin?
First, I tell myself that this is normal for a 2.5 year old, and that no stage of childhood development is permanent. (I don’t want to even think about how these arguments over clothes and safety will escalate as she gets older.) Knowing that these epic meltdowns are all part of the beautiful mess that motherhood is really helps me keep things in perspective. Second, I share these stories with my mom friends. We can’t support one another if we aren’t honest about how trying motherhood can be. No mom should ever feel guilty over expressing her feelings—kids can be stressful, right? We love them, we want them, but they really know how to push our buttons!
Most importantly, I come up with a plan to combat her undesirable behavior. I’m not saying my plan always works, but I make an attempt. My daughter responds really well to affirmations, or encouraging statements. We include a set of statements as part of her bedtime routine. So, when our daycare reported, for the third time, that my daughter was having trouble being quiet at naptime, I started teaching her to say, “I am quiet at naptime” or “I keep my head on my pillow”. Her teacher started using these affirmations and we stopped hearing about naptime struggles. After sleeping in the same room for over a week during a family vacation, I had to add, “I can go to sleep without crying” to her bedtime statements upon our return home to separate rooms. About a week after repeating this nightly, she settled back into falling asleep alone without a lot of fuss.
Now that we are home together all day, every day, these affirmative statements have become crucial to our sanity as parents. We have had some big struggles over using manners recently. We demonstrate proper courtesies over and over again, making sure to emphasize “please” and “thank you”, but when this child wants something, she demands it with force.
“Mommy sit on the floor!”
She wants what she wants and she isn't afraid to ask for it. Although my husband always exhibits great patience with our daughter, I know that her rudeness gets under his skin like nothing else! So, I started wondering, how can we use an affirmative statement to improve this situation? After a demand is barked at me, I simply reply “I am polite.” She may still make demands or whine, but I have found that if I am consistent and repetitive, most of the time she relents and uses the manners we know she has.
Of course there are times when these affirmations do not work at all. There are times when her will is just too strong, or she isn’t emotionally ready to move on from the issue. However, I am going to keep coming up with new ways to help her learn and grow because I am patient, I am persistent, and I am unstoppable. And, Mama, so are you!
Do you use affirmations or encouraging statements with your children? I'd love to hear about your experiences below!