It's been obvious to me for a long time that Iris is a strong-willed human being. As a baby she was never "high needs", but she has grown in to a much more independent toddler than I ever could have imagined. Firstly, I LOVE the fact that she's strong-willed. I hope it serves her well for the rest of her life! I hope she never takes shit from anyone, and will continue to question authority for the rest of her life much as she questions (and thus chooses to ignore) my requests to stop pulling the cat's tail and to not go behind the couch. I love the fact that she can hold her own in a group of children or adults, that I never have to coax her in to trying something new, or attempting to make friends, or basically be an active part of her world. I've always been a pretty big fraidy cat, and it's prevented me from doing alot of the things I wish I could. I don't think I exactly always followed authorities orders, but I certainly demonstrated "safe" rebellious behaviors. Who knows, maybe Iris will grow up to be an important leader who has everyone looking up to her because of her vigor and will.
Of course, right now she's 21 months old, and she's often times a handful. Scratch that, MORE than a handful. If I tell her no, she melts down. If I ask her to stop doing something, she does it even more forcefully. If I ask her to go left, she runs right as fast as she can. It's hard to deal with. At times I am a calm mama, helping her handle her urges even when they are going to run her right in to harm. At other times, I am a frazzled mama who firmly grabs her wrist and uses a voice much more stern than I ever thought I would use with my children.
Today Melissa and I brought Iris, her son, and the girl she nannies for to the library for story time. NOTHING I asked Iris to do sounded good to her. After realizing it was ridiculous to try and force her to sit through story time (I felt like I was saying: "you WILL listen to this story about sheep and you will LIKE IT!") we decided to take the kids out in to the children's area of the library so they could run around. I could barely turn around for a second before she was trying to scale the giant rock sculpture (on a side note, who designs a giant rock to sit in the middle of the children's area so they can crack their head's open?!!?) or trying to hurl herself off of the furniture. As we walked over to the DVD's she repeatedly smashed every computer keyboard she walked by. After the first one I said "no Iris, don't touch those, you could break them" and by the time she smashed the fourth one I just firmly grabbed her and dragged her away from the area. Grrrr. The struggle continued as we tried to check out books, then wrangle our way in to the stroller so we could leave. As we walked to the grocery store, Melissa and I wondered why some children can be told once, maybe twice, in a nice, thoughtful way to do or not do something, and they're cool with it. What do you do with children like Iris when NO amount of talking, or demonstrating, or re-directing will get through to them?
I have a friend through co-op named Shawn. She has one of those completely polite daughter's who practically apologizes when she looks at you wierd. Shawn is southern, and seems very proper and polite, and I honestly think it's in her daughter's genes to just be quiet and polite. The other day Iris was over at her house so Shawn could babysit for a few hours. Let me start by saying this house is a nightmare to me. It's full of plants, knick-knacks and fragile family heirlooms ALL WITHIN A CHILD'S REACH. Obviously her own daughter wouldn't even think to touch these items, but the first time Iris was there, she couldn't keep her hands off of them. So, this time when I was going to be dropping Iris off, I firmly reminded Shawn that Iris is very mischievous, and won't leave any of these items alone. Shawn assured me she was ready. When we got there, Shawn took Iris and sweetly pointed out where the toys were that Iris could touch and then gently explained that everything else was only for adults, and that Iris couldn't touch any of those things. I quietly laughed to myself, and told Shawn one more time that Iris would go after all of those breakables, and that she needed to be watched closely. I then left them alone, praying that I wouldn't owe Shawn about $500 for all of the items Iris would inevitably smash while Shawn looked sweetly on speaking in a calm, loving voice. Luckily, when I came back, everything was in tact. I was relieved.
So, the question remains, why doesn't this approach, the sweet, loving, calm approach, work with every child? Why, if it's the best thing to do, doesn't it always work? And what do you do with the children form whom it very clearly DOESN'T work? I will never, ever resort to spanking or yelling, but it seems that the times I get pretty stern with Iris are the only times she even remotely responds to me. Sigh. I feel like I'm stuck.
For now, I pick my battles. Melissa and I ate lunch with the three kids, and while they all screamed at the top of their lungs, getting louder and louder as they egged each other on, we just shrugged. We laughed and agreed that we picked our battles, and screaming just wasn't one of them. I love that she sees eye-to-eye with me on that one :)