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For the kids who argue

I am wonderfully blessed with four stubborn children. My parents and my husband's parents would say they come by it honestly. That is probably true. All our kids are differently stubborn. When they were toddlers, we just had to move through the screams. As they got older, we could sometimes reason with them. Sometimes. A bit. Or their stubbornness began to be focused on something other than their attempts to accomplish tasks far too difficult for them.

Now, we are fighting with our four-year-old. On everything. When safe to do so, we let her try and come for help when she realizes on her own that she isn't capable of whatever the task is. When she's toe to toe with a sibling whom we've directed to a task, we step in. Then she melts down. We also have the joy that she insists she can do something, then melts down after 30 seconds of trying because she can't. She believes her inability to complete the project to be someone's fault though. It can't possibly be that she is too short, young, small. Someone else obviously caused the issue.

While she is digging in her heels at completing tasks she has no business attempting, like moving a 200 pound full sandbox, she is demanding a hand to walk up stairs she easily traversed at 18 months. Yesterday, she wanted help to put on shoes. Ten minutes later, she was spewing vitriol because help with her socks was merely offered. Today she can't climb into the van on her own, but yesterday she could drive.

We get to walk the balance beam of offending her by either helping or not helping. We never know which is the right way. We step back and let her try to be accused of ignoring her. Or we step in and offer, not force, just offer help and we are accused of never letting her do anything. She wants to clean bathrooms, but "can't" clean her room. She wants to fold beach towels, but "can't" fold hand towels. She wants to put things away on the top shelf of the fridge and becomes angry when we tell her she's too short. As though pointing out the height differential is a personal attack on her abilities.

We literally cannot win any of these battles. We pray she will grow out of them. In the meantime, we try to let her realize and ask for help in her own time. Before offering help, we offer encouragement. We avoid telling her she is incapable of anything. If she realizes it, she accepts it. If we point it out, she sees it as though we are challenging her. She must be in control of all things too. If she didn't choose it, it can't be right. Unless she asks you to choose. Then if you don't, she melts down. Literally, cannot win.

Parenting isn't a war or battle, though. It is a journey. Right now, we are in a forest without light. Soon we should emerge and begin to see glimmers through the canopy. For now, we feel our way. You'd think by our fourth traversal in this parenting jungle, we would have more tricks up our sleeves. Either we are tired, or the older ones sold our secrets to their younger sister. Joke's on them. She uses her stubbornness against them too!

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