Thursday, October 18, 2012

accentuate the positive

In perusing Facebook and blogs, parents seem to fall into one of two camps when speaking about their children:  glowing, beaming, can-do-no-wrong assessments of their kids or negative, disappointed, what's-wrong-with-my-offspring lamentations.  Of course we know that no child is all bad or all good.  Some are more exhausting and challenging than others.  And so much of it has simply to do with the parent's perspective! 

For instance, if you struggled with infertility, finally got pregnant after years, had a scary pregnancy full of issues and specialists, and then finally had a baby who cried all the time and turned into a rambunctious toddler - you would probably still just be thanking God Almighty that you had the chance to bring this crazy person into the world.  It's all about your context and the life experience you bring to the table.

I have made no secret that I kind of fall into both camps.  Naturally, I think my child is special and unique and brilliant.  But she is also stubborn, can become fixated, frequently does naughty things just for attention, and already tries to boss me around.

She's starting her own small business and needed to make some contacts.
Here is a mental game I play with myself when I seem to be having an extra-challenging day on the toddler front.  It really hearkens back to a special kind of interpersonal management training that I received in working at a camp as a college student.  (Old-school MTOPpers, you will feel me on this!)  It's called the Strengths Deployment Inventory, or SDI.  It's a bit complicated, but the premise is this:  any strength can become overdone, in which case we call it a weakness.  For example, persistence can easily bleed into stubbornness.  Being direct can become domineering in a heartbeat.  And so on and so forth.

With Vicki, I do a special version of this schema where I think, How will this overdone strength benefit her as an adult?

For example:  she is unbearably persistent.  "No" does not mean "no" in her world.  "No" just means keep asking or trying until you can do what you want.  Someday, if I don't "break" her of this habit, she will be able to bore through any brick wall put in front of her relationally or professionally.

Thought her choice of a mule was so apropos! 
She is stubborn as one.
Regardless of whether I act warmly or icily toward her, because of the various happenings of the day, she consistently seeks out relationship.  She wants to be near me.  She wants to sit on my lap.  She wants to sit on my lap while I'm on the toilet.  You get the point.  Someday, she will seek intimacy and relationship with people over and over again, even when people reject her because of their own insecurities or issues (as I sometimes do).  That is beautiful to me. 

Isn't this fun??  It just makes me want to have a kaleidoscope I can peer into and see the future - just a glimpse.  When you have a "special" day with your toddler, try it out! 

How do you re-frame your expectations of toddler behavior?  How do you refocus when the day isn't going how you'd like?


Katie Rose said...

Loved this post. Although I have no children (does a dog count?), I think your SDI technique is genius. And for the record, my dog also tries to sit on my lap when I'm on the toilet.

Emily said...

Thanks! Yes, my dog also has her whole own set of overdone strengths involving neediness and anxiety. I do this with grown people too, all the time! It's fun.

Andrea said...

I would often tell myself while my child threw a temper tantrum or screamed for hours at a time (2-3 hours, usually) that this persistence will mean she will overcome many tough obstacles in life, and never give up.

Emily said...

Oh yes - the tantrums. They definitely make me think that she will never allow her voice to be drowned out by others in the room just because she is a pretty girl.

even one sparrow said...

Good questions. Oh man. It's so bizarre to read these types of post and have the sudden realization that yes -- I do indeed have a TODDLER and not a baby.

How do I reframe? I breathe. Seriously. My biggest battle with Gwen is changing her diaper. Even when she TELLS me she needs a diaper change, she will thrash and kick and try to throw herself off the changing table. I literally have to hold her down with my whole body weight to keep her from tumbling off, and just wait and breathe until she calms down. It's crazy.

And I pray. I pray that God gives us our daily bread -- meaning, the strength and patience I need, and the peace and obedience she needs.

Sesame Street also doesn't hurt on occasion. Or rather -- if I need some down time too -- we turn on Fraggle Rock. Brings back good memories. :)

Emily said...

Yep, I have recently started holding Vicki tightly in the midst of a tantrum. I just hold her and let her cry until she's done, while gently insisting that "it's time to cut our fingernails" or whatever it is that she is hating. It's actually a surprisngly effective way to help her get it out of her system, while feeling like I'm paying attention to her and being loving, not punishing.

Toddlers. They are insane.