Friday, February 23, 2024

I Didn’t Want a Marshmallow

August 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Parenting From Balance©

Parents often have a hard time with children who “think they’re the boss.” The irony is, that none of us want a marshmallow, a follower; and most of us want a happy, self-satisfied, confident child! (…a leader, perhaps?) So maybe it is as easy as shifting our thinking! We can embrace it as AWESOME that our child knows what s/he wants! This is the type of child who will probably not follow the pack like a lemming out to sea! What our child needs is help learning ways to get those needs met; ways that don’t conflict with another’s ability to get their needs met! It is as simple as that!

Even before I was lucky enough to become pregnant with my son, I knew I didn’t want to have a marshmallow. I wanted a child like myself: someone who knows what they want, and also what they don’t want. Someone who will grab life by its tail and make things happen for himself. Someone who is not afraid to be themselves, stand up for themselves, even in the face of peer pressure (and fear of abandonment). In a word: someone who mainstream thinkers might call stubborn. Or, someone who will make their own way in life. Not just someone who would ‘march to a different drummer,’ but someone who would CREATE the drum they will march to.

And when I realized that, I also knew it would not be easy. Motherhood was going to make me stretch, I was sure. It was going to make me really question why I have the limits I have, and why I don’t have others that might serve me if I did.

For example, I have a fetish for clean, uncluttered floors. This drives me to survey my son’s room with dis-ease whenever he has been playing with gusto, elbow-deep in legos, cars, and plastic rescue men….

“Kian, please don’t leave all of your toys around your room.”
“Linda, it’s my room, right?”


“I don’t mind if the toys are all over my floor. And since it’s my room, then that should be enough, right?”

“Well….Yes, Kian. you’re right.”

This as an example of my personal needs conflicting with someone’s else’s needs. If I impose my will here, then his need for freedom to control his belongings becomes encroached upon, and the lesson he learns is how to become a bully — that if you are larger, then you can boss people around.

It is either his room or it isn’t. I have been calling it his room since he was born, so in keeping with that I also want to follow through and allow him to make certain decisions about it. So my limit shifted. We made a mutual agreement. I keep the door closed, and I am not willing to deliver his clothing to his dresser if I cannot walk across his room. In turn, when the floor becomes too cluttered to move about easily, he cleans it up cheerfully, willingly, and voluntarily.

The other day, when a random adult picked Kian up without warning or permission, Kian was confident enough to say: “Put me down.” He did not yell it, and he was not upset. When the adult returned him to the ground, Kian said “Don’t ever pick me up again without asking. I don’t like that. I wouldn’t do that to you, so it’s not OK to do it to me.” He stated his needs calmly and clearly, and with confidence. I love that.

I am learning a lot as the parent of a “stubborn” child. There is a big difference between me as a child, and my child. While I was never confident enough to express myself freely, my son has no problem expressing himself and asking for the things he believes he needs. And he is extremely respectful of himself and his own belongings, as well as other people and their belongings. He is respectful because he is being raised with respect. He has empathy, because he is being raised with empathy.

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

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