I woke up at 4:00 this morning and writhed -- writhed, I am telling you -- at the thought of the people who might read that post from last night and think, "Perhaps a better strategy than inhabiting your authority is in order, Jamie." I remembered the day I met Kira, when my daughter beaned her daughter on the head. (More than once.) I thought about the times that my daughter bit my brother's little boy when they were both smaller. She was not the sort of toddler about whom people said, "She's so well-behaved!"
The point I wanted to make in yesterday's rambly post is that a short-term goal of instant compliance across contexts may be at odds with a long-term goal of thoughtful self-discipline. Like adults, kids need space to feel the consequences of their actions and respond appropriately. (Surely I am not the only one who needs a little time to offer a heartfelt apology, even when I am wrong.) Like adults, kids do better when they feel better. (Ergo, post-swim-lesson preschoolers might take some extra wrangling.) It may seem overly obvious to point out that day by day, kids are turning into adults. It's particularly clear to me given the spacing of my children: if I wouldn't say it to my 18yo, should I say it to my 15yo? to my 12yo? to my 9yo? to my 6yo? They are all heading to the same place, and while they need different responses from me those responses should have the same overarching goal.
I have two children who are temperamentally meek and pliant, and three whose default response to authority is NOPE. We prize meekness and pliancy in preschoolers, forgetting that those kids are more vulnerable to bullying and peer pressure as they grow because they're accustomed to saying yes. There is a place, a critical place, for saying NOPE. So I am muddling through, doing my best to teach the meek kids that there's a time to be less meek and the NOPE kids that yes is usually (but not always) a better response. Some days I still worry that I look like a bad mother. Some days I still worry that I am a bad mother. Some days I still wish it were faster.
Mostly I know that good things take time.