My spirited child is like the Duracell Bunny from the moment she wakes up. Running around, jumping and screaming, not stopping to eat or to watch life go by. I, on the other hand, am an introvert who loves chasing life at my own pace. I enjoy taking frequent quiet breaks to recharge myself and spend my energy like a miser.
This temperamental chasm resulted in “Stop it…slow down…sit quietly for some time…not now…stop drumming your fingers” echoing in our home all day long. The psychological and physical exhaustion had been taking a toll on my peace of mind. Plagued by self-doubt, I’d endlessly worry if I’d ever be able to find a solution to this daily hue and cry.
To fulfill my yearning to raise a disciplined child, I was unknowingly nagging her like there’s no tomorrow. I was trying to remold my child into a personality that resonated my beliefs and fulfilled my expectations without acknowledging the real cause of the conflict.
The constant pressure on my daughter was hurting her and piling on resentment. Following Newton’s third law, she was reacting with all her might to contradict my every action and instruction. That’s when I decided, I’d had enough.
One night around bedtime, when my daughter was in a rather sullen mood, I chose to play her favorite ‘Mommy – Baby’ game where I play the child and her, the parent. My daughter got hold of her toy laptop and started typing like I do.
“Mamma, come let’s dance!” said I.
“Sorry dear, I’m busy” my daughter mimicked me.
“Please, mamma, I don’t like dancing alone.” I pleaded.
“Hmmm…” she muttered in exactly the same tone as me.
“Mamma shut that computer now.”
“Hmmm…” she murmured not budging or shifting her gaze from the laptop screen.
“Mamma come fast, no?” I could feel the agitation build up as I recollected the way the conversation goes in real life.
That’s when I tried to shut her toy laptop like she tries to shut mine.
“NO. You have no idea what you just did, do you? How many times have I told you that I can’t be dancing all the time?”
That’s when my daughter unleashed her pent-up fury in exactly the same words I use with her all day. I could feel my grown-up self, cringe, wilt, and shatter despite the understanding it was just a pretend game. I could see clearly what I’d been doing wrong.
I spent a sleepless night writhing in pain and guilt. I recollected when I was pregnant with my daughter I’d often wish that may my child not be like me. May she be outspoken, bold enough to take on the world and stir up a storm should anyone ever dare to cage her spirit. And my prayers had been answered.
I was torn by the realization of traumatizing my child because of my oversight of the fact that I ought to be aiming at behavior change and not personality change at her tender age. I had to act promptly to salvage the damage I’d caused.
To make it happen, I adopted the following strategies:
1. Choose happiness over perfection: I used to push my daughter every morning through the routine and she resisted with all her might. Her slow ways won every time, no matter how early we started. For a change, one day I chose to be late and all of sudden that resulted in a happier child. My daughter was surprised at seeing me not reminding her to ‘hurry up’ every 30 seconds. Letting my daughter be the boss while subtly guiding her has been helping us get ready 10 minutes earlier than usual.
2. Play what the kid enjoys: Jumping on the bed was my child’s favorite form of exercise that pushed me to the edge every time. I recently bought a trampoline and we both love the fun and exercise sessions together. Besides fitness, it also gifts my child an appetite that helps her enjoy her food.
3. Get out and about: Going out for a walk together has helped my feisty child enjoy socializing, spend her energy exploring nature & make the most of the undivided attention she gets from me.
4. Being her cheerleader: Matching up to my 4-year-old’s energy when she gets in the dancing groove can often be trying. So I chose to be her audience cheering for her and we both love our new roles. This new found surge of appreciation has helped her feel loved and cared for more than before.
5. Mess isn’t always bad: I’m a cleanliness freak but learning to overlook a few stains and streaks of disorderliness has been gratifying. I have earned dividends in the form of a smiling child and peace of mind.
6. Appreciation works like a charm: Be it putting toys back in the cupboard, books in their place or helping stock the fridge with water bottles, I make sure every little gesture of helpfulness my daughter makes is appreciated. This has also helped my child understand that appreciating my work, makes me feel cared for and understood just like her.
7. Love and affection needn’t always be displayed: While I love spending quiet, bonding moments with my child, I have to wait for them to come by. My child often has no time to spare for such pleasantries. But an impromptu hug and unexpected caring gesture can occasionally surprise me leaving a big appreciative smile.
8. Finding common ground: Books have been the connecting link for me and my child. Reading stories from picture books together and discussing them at length at bedtime has always been our favorite activity.
9. Avoid nagging and sarcasm: I bite my tongue, count to 100 if need be, to calm down every time the urge to nag or retort with sarcasm raises its head. And in return, I’m amazed to watch my child act way calmer than she used to.
My journey of parenting an extrovert child has been testing boundaries of my patience, my physical fitness and above all, my love for a quiet life. However, driven by the desire to find love and solace for our happy co-existence, I’m working on creating a life where my child and I feel validated, appreciated and loved while celebrating the differences that make us who we are.