Basically, what I’ve learned so far boils down to this. Parenting is not so much about managing your children, as it is about managing yourself. For example, in our family the kids wake up every morning (in the winter) at 6:30. 6:30 wake up calls make me a bit grumpy, so I could either: a) yell at the kids to leave me alone or; b) go to sleep earlier so that I’m not so tired at 6:30.
On a similar note, we have been having lots of trouble lately with nap time. We’ve tried coercion, bribery, deal-making, exasperation, and force to keep Ruby on her normal nap schedule. We did this for three reasons. First, when she naps regularly, she’s a nicer kid. Second, when she naps, her brother can nap, and when she doesn’t nap she intentionally wakes him up. Third, when she doesn’t nap, Vick doesn’t get a break, and is ragged at the end of the day. As a result I’ve taken to coming home several days a week at lunch time to put her down. This has worked surprisingly well on the days that I can come home, but when I can’t the whole family is a mess by the end of my workday.
For months (years?) I’ve been holding on to this “I’m in control here, and I know what’s best, so I’m going to find a way to make it happen” mentality. Well last week we had a bit of an epiphany. Vick and I decided to give Ruby the choice whether she was going to nap or not. I told her that she was old enough to take responsibility for this choice. I explained why we had been making her nap (the three reasons above), and that she was going to need to work with us to find other ways to make those aspects of our family life work out if she was going to choose not to nap.
The first several days were hot and cold. There were several times when we decided to can this plan all together, and a few where we actually told Ruby the deal was off. Somehow we managed to give her back the reigns before nap time each day.
Today before I left for work, I reminded her that she had this new responsibility, and that Miles was still a baby who really needed to nap every day for as long as he wanted. I also let her know that I believed she was going to succeed. When I got home, I was pleasantly (and completely) surprised to find out that Ruby had carried her responsibility admirably, and Miles had had a great nap.
So back to my original point. Ruby is more than capable of managing herself, she just needs to know the parameters. In our family the ultimate parameter is harmony. When we gave her responsibility for her choice, and let her know what standard she was expected to live up to, she was able to shine, and to own her success.
Now that I’ve shared this insight, I expect you all to remind me of it when I loose focus.