Would You Rather Your Child Can’t Or Won’t?

Something funny happened with Sophia today, at least for me. I got us some doughnuts for dessert. Just a brief background, she is not really used to sweets a lot. Sometimes a chocolate bar would be in our fridge for months! And I bought an ice cream maker and we used it for maybe 3 times! Both my parents are diabetic so I became a little paranoid after college. So anyway, after lunch, she took a couple of bites and said it was too sweet!

I admit I may have made a mistake by assuming she did not like it. However, I remember I asked her if I can have it, and she said yes, otherwise I would not even bother. I am not fond of sweets (anymore), too. So I was very surprised when she started crying after she saw the pastry was almost gone. I cannot imagine what would have happened if I finished it!

My initial impulse was to ask her to stop crying, tell her there are more doughnuts, and if she really wants the glazed one, I can get her again next time (going out right then is out of the question, as I do not want to spoil my child and make her think that she can get what she wants when she cries).

To be honest, I do not even think that the situation was an opportunity to discipline. I am reminded by what I read about managing expectations as parents.

Parental frustration radically and drastically decreases when we distinguish between a can’t and a won’t. Sometimes we assume that our kids won’t behave the way we want them to, when in reality, they simply can’t, at least not in this particular moment.

The truth is that a huge percentage of misbehavior is more about can’t than won’t. The next time your child is having a hard time managing herself, ask yourself, “Does the way she’s acting make sense, considering her age and the circumstances?

The truth is that for all of us, our capacity fluctuates given our state of mind and state of body, and these states are influenced by so many factors – especially in the case of a developing brain in a developing child.

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PH. D: No – Drama Discipline

As parents, when we find ourselves in less than ideal circumstances and our child is not behaving the way we want them to, not to mention it has not been a good day for us as well, we make assumptions that generally dictates how we handle the situation:

  • We assume that misbehavior is always willful opposition instead of a moment of difficulty while trying to manage feelings and behaviors.
  • We expect our children to obey us unconditionally and without exception. Do we want our kids to grow up blindly obeying everyone their whole lives? Or would we rather have them develop their own individual personalities and identities, learning along the way what it means to get along with others, observe limits, make good decisions, be self-disciplined, and navigate difficult situations by thinking for themselves?
  • We assume there is some silver bullet or magic wand that can be used to address any behavioral issue or concern. We sure wish there were such a cure-all, but there is not.

I am very fortunate that Sophia is a relatively well-behaved child. I would like to think I have something to do with it, and I am a little proud of myself.

I need to remind myself however, that she is only 7 years old. It is too much to expect her to handle disappointments and fears and sadness like a grown up all the time. I am in my mid 30s and I certainly loose it every now and then. ( https://toabettersarahraisingsophia.wordpress.com/2021/06/13/the-one-where-sophia-asked-mommy-to-raise-her-better/ )

Today has been overwhelming for me for some reasons, and while I look helplessly at my child crying because I ate half her doughnut, I was so close to snapping at her. I am so glad, I paused and took deep breaths before I could lash at her. Instead, I pulled her on my lap and held her while lovingly patting her back. A 36 year old woman may not think it is a big deal, but my 7 year old sure does.

It helped that I imagined what I would feel if I were her. For Sophia, it may be a doughnut. For Mommy, it is losing a client after working so hard to close the deal. Lesson learned, do not eat my child’s food.

Would you have eaten the doughnut, too?

#ToABetterSarah #RaisingSophia #SophiaJulienneAt7 #FromZeroToHero

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