A battle of wills

Of course my 2-year-old is into engaging in a battle of wills sometimes.  She is pressing and learning her limits.  I am teaching, battling and trying to maintain patience.  And I’m trying to have wisdom and discernment to know which battles to pick and which to let go.  I don’t want to crush her spirit in any way.  But, I also have to make sure that she understands I’m the mom and she’s the kid.

So, that brings us to last night.  For about a week now when we pray before her nap and bed and tell her to bow her head she’s been refusing.  “No.  I don’t bow my head.”  Here’s the thing: I don’t necessarily mind for her not to bow her head.  I don’t think that Jesus minds that much either, but I do see the outright defiance that it has become.

Usually when something like this happens, then I just rule that she won’t get to do whatever it is that she is being difficult about.  I can’t do that with prayer.  But, she does have a favorite song that we sing after prayer time.  It’s “Bouncing Baby,” which we learned ages ago at the library story time.  We bounce her on our knee and sing.  She loves it and always asks for it and knows it comes after prayer.

Last night, I told her we were praying and to bow her head.  She chimed in with her, “No.  I don’t bow my head.”  I laid down the law.  I explained that if she wouldn’t bow her head then we wouldn’t sing “Bouncing Baby.”  She still refused.  I looked at my husband.  Being the ever-dutiful wife, I had forgotten to run this plan by him ahead of time like I often do.  He looked a bit concerned, but he had my back.  It was simple.  Bow your head, get your favorite song.  Refuse to do so, and we’re skipping it and moving to the other songs.  I knew this would bother my daughter because along with liking the song, she very much likes her predictable routine (just like her mommy).

What I didn’t consider when I had thought of this plan is what I’d do if she’d never actually bow her head.  I figured it would make sense to her to bow her head and get what she wanted.  It made sense to me.  However, I have 30 years on the kid.  I didn’t factor in the toddler mindset.

For 30 minutes last night, we battled.  She was mad at any other song I sang.  She was mad at turning on her Tinkerbell nightlight like she loves doing.  She was mad at being in her crib.  But, she was still refusing.  We gave her chance after chance after chance. We tried making it a game.  Just bow your head at the count of three when we do.  And we also understood that her bowing her head might not look like we thought bowing a head would.  She is a toddler, of course.  We asked her if she had bowed.  We asked her if she would bow.  We kept getting resounding, emphatic “No!!”s.

At one point, I was pretty sure that I was going to give in.  It was so stinking hard.  She has no idea how much I wanted to pick her up (after we put her in her crib when the battle waxed on) and hold her and sing “Bouncing Baby” to her.  My husband supported me.  He reminded me that we had started this and needed to see it through.

We were both thankful when we saw a slight nod from her that she conceded was a bow.  I scooped her up.  We snuggled, we rocked, we swayed and then we sat in the chair and sang “Bouncing Baby.”  She settled right down.  We did our normal bedtime routines (again).

Then she went to her crib.  She talked about how she could bow her head.  She talked about how she wouldn’t cry any more and then began to tear up.  She needed extra snuggle time.  This time, she got that with daddy.  They sat together in the chair for a few minutes and then she was fine to go right to sleep.  She was worn out.

We headed out of her room worn out and exhausted as well.  It was a bigger battle than I had anticipated to say the least.  It was hard.  It was crazy.  And I’m not positive who came out victorious, to be honest.  I think she got our point that she can’t be defiant, but I’m not sure.  I am anxious to see how things go today.  I know with my kiddo’s desire for independence, stubbornness and strong will that we have many battles ahead of us.  I also know that she got that stubbornness from someone (ahem, me).  I can hold my ground when I need to.  I just know that she’ll never realize until she becomes a mother herself, how hard these battles are on me.  She won’t realize that they break my heart so much more than they break hers and that I want nothing more than to hold her and say, “To heck with it.”  But, I also know that sometimes we have to go through these things so that in the end, she will be a well behaved, well adjusted little girl.

Last night’s battle wasn’t about bowing her head for prayer time.  It was about recognizing that she can’t be defiant when we tell her to do something.  I’m not sure if the lesson was learned by her.  I do know that I learned to always have in mind what I’m going to do and how I’m going to handle outright refusal to comply.  It’s hard, but no one has ever said being a parent was an easy job (unless, perhaps, they weren’t a parent).

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