On just saying No.

Petra has gone through another of her periodic bursts of development. She’s more coordinated and physically confident. She climbs fences, jumps off things, jumps across gaps, walks along stepping stones without losing her balance, and runs around more and faster. Her vocabulary has increased and so has the complexity of her sentences. Her speech is much clearer even for people who don’t know her. She makes up elaborate stories, telling and retelling them, embellishing as she goes. She’ll continue a game in the evening with Travis that she started in the morning with me.

Her social and emotional awareness has increased dramatically. If I’m demonstrative about something, she wants me to explain why I’m reacting the way I am. She watches me intently and catches my mood. She offers me comfort and reassurance in a special soothing voice – “don’t worry,” she tells me, “don’t be scared. It’s okay.” She soothes her toys in the same way. She’s also learning to be pissy if she doesn’t like what’s happening. Yesterday, she pushed my hand away and flounced off along the footpath muttering to herself, because I was standing on the “wrong side.” It was funny, but also a bit disconcerting. My baby’s almost three going on 13 it would seem.

And with all of this increased awareness comes an increased sense of her own will. We’re bickering more these days because she’s doing her job as a preschooler and testing the limits of her power. She says no much more, often just flat out refusing to do what I say. It’s a peculiarly helpless feeling to look at my small child and realise that in the end if she absolutely refuses to clean her teeth or get dressed there’s bugger all I can do to make her, short of physical restraint. I haven’t come up with a firm plan for handling the power struggles. They’re a test of my patience and temper quite unlike anything else I’ve encountered. So I find myself not only struggling with Petra but with myself, trying not to lose my cool and yell at the same time as I try to come up with some effective way of managing Petra. Tricky, it’s very tricky.

Mostly, I try to preempt the clashes. I do a lot of negotiating – in fact I had a random woman at the playground congratulate me on my negotiation skills the other day. And a lot of diverting and distracting and forward planning. To help Petra through a transition or a leaving, I describe what we’re going to do next and hope like hell I can come up with something exciting enough to make stopping what we’re currently doing less of a wrench. For example, we left the playground this afternoon without a fuss because of the opportune arrival of a big black cat.
Me: “See that cat in the car park Petra. Let’s go now and pat the cat before we get in the car to go home.

Until recently these techniques have been enough, but now I need some new ones. Time to hit the books I think.

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