My daughters are 4 and nearly 3, and it feels as though we are in the thick of a new phase in which both girls test authority on a regular basis. It sort of crept up on us. Seemingly overnight, our easy-going 2 year old nudged closer to 3, and developed some very strong opinions of her own. Mix in the strong will of her older sister, and you’ve got the makings of some intense days!
But I have decided to take a huge step away from all of the intensity, to observe what is actually happening and to think clearly about what is needed right now. Some basic truths:
- Children test authority. They have different personalities and temperaments, but each in their own way, they need to push against a boundary to see that it exists and to see where they stand.
- Parents need not let this testing ruffle their feathers. Getting a rise out of a big grown-up must pique the curiosity of a little kid (or teen!) who usually doesn’t wield much power in her world.
- As parents, our challenge isn’t to “win” the power play; it’s to tactfully use our authority to guide these children toward self-control and acceptable behavior.
- A clear vision of what we want, plainly expressed will guide their wayward ships toward shore. No yelling, threats or bribery needed here. Simply an adult clearly paying attention and clearly in charge. An adult worthy of imitation.
In my house, I am declaring this the Summer of Love. It’s a little reminder that our children’s needs come first. As we navigate this awkward, testy phase I’m prepared to stick close to home, minimize activities, follow a pretty firm daily rhythm, and stop whatever I’m doing when my children’s behavior tells me they’re off-course (I know, this part doesn’t sound like a lot of fun…but it actually IS full of play and stories and hanging out together and it really is quite nice).
But the greatest thing about the Summer of Love is that it’s also a time to give some extra lovin’ to these kids of ours, no matter what else is going on in our lives. We’ll be carving out one-on-one time with me or Mike. We’ll be remembering that humor and good music are always waiting in the wings to cheer people up. And we’ll always, always be showing our children that our love and affection are unconditional. Freely flowing and totally groovy!