Sometimes, as a parent, I have to assert my I know I’m right and you need to do what I say right now powers.
You know it. You’ve done the same thing – busy streets, crowds of people, dangerous predicaments.
There are times when it’s vital for my children to do exactly what I say, usually for her safety but sometimes for the respect of someone else or their property.
This was one of those times.
I thought I was preventing my toddler from falling into a fishpond.
Turns out, it was my asserting my way that made her fall into the fishpond.
We were eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Harrisburg, a restaurant with a large tiled fish pond in the lobby. We eat at this restaurant at least once a month; we meet my in-laws there because it’s in between our houses.
My toddler climbed up onto the low wall surrounding the fish pond. She sat carefully on the ledge, swinging her feet and splashing them in the cold water. The fish hid under a statue.
Believing that she should not be sitting there nor splashing, I grabbed her.
“No, Allie!” I said, pulling her backwards, off the ledge, feet onto the floor.
She squealed in anger and lunged toward the water, up and over the ledge in a single motion.
Into the water.
Fortunately, she didn’t get hurt; she didn’t go in head first. Her entire body from neck to feet went in the water just as quickly as she lunged.
The water was very cold, and my toddler was very unhappy.
Before she could even stand up, I was pulling her out, stripping off her wet clothes, and shaking her off.
She wasn’t in the water for more than three seconds; her diaper didn’t even have time to swell up.
I couldn’t help but think about all of the staff and patrons in this restaurant who must have been looking at me and pitying my deplorable parenting.
Only after I got home, I realized, So what? So what if they all thought I was a lousy parent?
What exactly does that do to me?
Nothing, that’s what.
That kind of parenting, the because I said so method, has never worked well for me. My kids are too smart, too spirited, too headstrong for it. I don’t do intimidation. I don’t do fear. I don’t do punishments.
Sometimes, that kind of parenting is necessary.
I aim for logical consequences, for the natural aftermath of a behavior to follow the behavior itself.
In this case, my toddler insisted upon being on the ledge, and she fell into the water. Perfectly logical. No punishment required.
She did try to climb up onto the wall another time or two, but they were halfhearted attempts. She didn’t really want to sit up there any more. She wanted to lean, to put a finger into the water.
The thing I’m left with is this.
I had to intervene, and my intervening caused her to fall into the water.
Sometimes the right answer is also the wrong one.