As most mothers, I was having a constant battle about nap time with my then 3-year-old. She didn’t want to nap anymore. I would end up getting very frustrated and threatening her with all kinds of things if she didn’t nap.
I was also worried about food battles. Was she eating enough? Was she sleeping enough? We seemed to be constantly having a battle of the wills like we so often do with our preschool aged children. I just wanted her to do what I wanted her to do.
So, I called a friend of mine and had to vent. Why was she being so difficult? I knew she had to take naps! Why wasn’t she eating? How could I get her to do what I said? The constant threats of time-out were no longer working, and unfortunately, I had resorted to threatening things I knew I wasn’t going to keep. Like, “You can’t go to Grandma’s house if you don’t take a nap”, when I knew that I had to take her to Grandma’s house regardless of what her choice was. As I was venting to this friend, she said something that changed my way of parenting pretty drastically. She said,
“One thing I’ve learned is that there are certain things I can’t force my child to do. I can’t force him to take a nap, and I can’t force feed him either.”
It seems like total common sense. Of course I wasn’t going to tie my child’s hands to the bed…and even if she did, there was no possible way I could make her close her eyes and go to sleep unless SHE wanted to. The same thing went for eating. Of course I wasn’t going to force food into my child’s mouth. And, even if I did, I couldn’t force her to swallow.
As parents, we forget sometimes that our children are little people too. They are people that have strong wills, and personalities, and likes and dislikes. Often, we look at them and see extensions of ourselves. We think, “I’m starving…she HAS to eat” or “I desperately need some down time, she HAS to sleep!” The way I approach things now is a lot different. I try my best to explain to my child why sleeping is the best option at that moment, but I ultimately leave it up to her. If she does not want to sleep, she still has to have “quiet time” in her room until I come get her. When it comes to eating, I no longer offer multiple meals at dinner time. If she chooses not to eat, then we will let her get down, but she will have to finish that meal later before getting a snack. It has changed my life. Mainly because there is less stress on me. I don’t get stressed out at meal time and nap time. Because, there is only so much I can do. She is a little person, with choices to make.