Daily Archives: December 7, 2009

Tug of War

Picture any kind of battle you are having with your child as a tug of war.  Two people, one at either end, each pulling hard as the other pulls even harder.  What happens when one lets go?  The tug of war is over.

As parents, we need to learn when to let go.

I talked to a mom the other day who admitted she was over the top busy – work, school, home.  The pace she described was frenetic.  She had not one extra moment in her day for anything that might throw this tight schedule off.

There was only one hitch.  Her four and a half year-old-son was finding this pace too fast, too much.  He was a dreamer, a thinker, slow to switch gears.  When he isn’t rushed, when he has the time he needs to connect and feel ready to move on, his mom says he is absolutely agreeable and accommodating.  But the dilemma for this particular parent was – her son needs to get with the program – now!

Therefore, they are engaged in a daily tug of war, which is affecting their relationship and her son’s behavior both at home and in daycare.

When I asked how this behavior played itself out, this parent described their morning –   a fast, jump- in- your- clothes, put- your- shoes- on, zip- your- jacket, grab- your- backpack, out- the- door- race.  Her son was always lagging behind.

In these situations, this dutiful mom tried to reason with her son, took away favorite toys, canceled special activities,threatened early bedtimes only to end in a full-blown melt-down with the mom determined more than ever that this behavior has to end.

This is where, as parents, we must step back and look at the needs of the moment.  This child, both developmentally and temperamentally, is telling his mom, “I can’t keep up.”  His mom, doing what she feels she needs to do for the family, is considering his inability to “cooperate” as misbehavior that she must “nip in the bud”.

And so the tug of war goes on.  I suggest the parent  drop her end of the rope.  End the tug of war.

In most cases of on-going conflict and tugs-of-war, there is a disconnect somewhere in the circuit system.  In order to get back on track, we need to find the connect switch and turn it on.  It can often be as simple as, in this situation, having the parent get up a bit earlier herself in order to be ready to share a few moments to connect with her son, to make the morning seem less rushed, to help her son feel noticed.

So, if you are having an on-going battle with your child, try dropping your end of the rope and consider what it is your child needs versus what you need to get accomplished. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is a connect or a disconnect with your child.  A disconnect leaves both of you feeling drained and disappointed.  A connect is palpable – you can almost touch it, it feels so right.

Trust me, dropping the rope is not giving in or spoiling.  I believe it is a sign of strength that empowers both you and your child.  Happy connecting!

If you are in the midst of a power struggle with your child and would like to talk about it, Family Resources offers Warm Lines and Family Coaching, free of charge.  Just call 784-8125 and say you have a parenting question.

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