Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Resistance is Futile

There is something about being a parent that makes me Borg. I want immediate and absolute obeyance from the child. And I really have to watch myself to avoid running over the poor guy with my own inflated sense of correctness.

I don't know why it is so important to me to have him do exactly what I say. Well, scratch that, I do know why - it's at least partly because of my OCD. And also because my upbringing involved similar sorts of struggles, though I remember what that felt like, and I have no desire to replicate that experience for my kid.

But then there is also that overwhelming concern that if he doesn't listen to me, I won't be able to protect him. There might be a dangerous situation, and I'll yell at him to get out of the way of the speeding car, and he will be busy asserting his own independence, and splat. (That's actually the scenario my dad always gave me when I didn't understand why he got so upset that I didn't jump to obey his commands. And I would say, "but there wasn't a speeding car just then...?")

But I am particularly concerned about him listening and following instructions when it comes to things like street safety. So I considered this morning to be at least a minor victory for me in my role as even-tempered parent. I told him to walk right next to me while we crossed our street, which is a side street with almost no traffic. Normally, we hold hands, but this particular morning, my hands were full of packages to bring to the post office, and his hands were full of stuffed animal and breakfast. And he lagged behind me, apparently not paying attention. But did I yell and freak out? No, I did not. I managed to grab a little bit of his coat collar with my pinky and marched him across the street, scolding (but not in a harsh way) him for not sticking with me. And then I had a brainstorm and asked, "did you think you were walking right next to me?" And he said, "yes." So we had a little discussion about what "walking right next to me" means, and I feel like we reached an understanding about what should happen the next time.

I feel pretty good about the whole thing, actually.


Anonymous said...

I think the safety thing cuts both ways. If you're always harping on a kid to do everything _right now_ and _exactly this way_, the kid will eventually just tune you out, because he's smart enough to figure out that a few minutes or a slightly different way of doing things doesn't make a real difference. If you make an effort to save the strict instructions for situations where they are really necessary, I think you get better compliance in the long run.

Great idea to ask him that question. Misunderstandings like that are at the heart of many, many instances of 'disobedience'.

Carrie said...

This is why God invented leashes.

No, just kidding. The only good trick I've taught my Newfoundland puppy (who will soon weigh more than I do) is to stop at corners when I show her my palm and wait until I say okay. It seems like a pretty basic requirement for inexperienced creatures that don't really understand what the union of a ton of metal and an organic being means.

plain(s)feminist said...

I have actually threatened the use of a kid leash (which I used to use in airports when he was a toddler). But he thinks that sounds cool.

Anonymous said...

If he thinks it sounds cool, then why not use it? Win-win, you know.