Hollie’s a picky eater. She’s got the foods she likes and she sticks with them. She’s an only child. She likes her alone time. She’s also an independent child. She doesn’t like being bossed around by me and Charlie.
More than once on vacation we found ourselves in a standoff with Hollie.
Over going to play golf. She didn’t want to. We did.
Over leaving the wave pool at the water park. She didn’t want to. We did.
Over going out for dinner. She didn’t want to. We did.
Over eating what she’d ordered. She refused.
Over leaving the Hilton Resort Orlando after checkout on Thursday. We had to.
We fight over brushing her hair.
We fight over brushing her teeth.
These days it seems like we fight about pretty much everything. Which is a good thing. It means she trusts us enough to state her desires with some confidence they’ll be met.
It means she has specific desires and is learning how to rationally explain those desires.
I ask questions to get her to elaborate on her logic. I sometimes let her win.
Being willing to fight means she’s assertive enough to get what she wants. It means she won't be bullied, go along with the crowd, or believe her wants don’t matter.
Then, last week, I read this blog post about letting a little girl say “no.” And I did what I think the blogger wanted me to do, I really thought about it.
I thought about the writer’s point that coaxing a child to do things she doesn’t want to do teaches the child that the people she trusts know better than her instincts. And that such a lesson may lead to the child following other people she trusts – like boyfriends – into behaviors she’s not comfortable with.
I thought about all the times we’ve begged Hollie to just try something to eat. And how, when she didn’t like it, we took it away and gave her something else. But that if she didn’t even try it, she didn’t get anything else.
I wondered if pressuring her to try the ravioli at Maggiano’s was going to turn her into the girl that rides home with a drunk friend because the friend tells her it’ll be okay.
I wondered if encouraging her to ride the water slide – the really tall one where I held her in front of me -- even though she seemed wary about it would turn her into the teen-aged girl that gives blow jobs because a boyfriend says it’ll show him how much she loves him.
I read that blogger’s assertion that “No means no” and decided she’s missed the mark.
Little kids refuse to try stuff because they’re afraid. They don’t know what the outcome will be and they’re fearful of what they don’t know.
It’s our job to teach them to be brave.
Teach them that the consequences for things like merry-go-rounds and vegetables are low. Then help them understand the risk they took and the payoff.
As they get older, teach them to ask and understand what the consequences will be. Teach them to recognize actual risk. Teach them to understand payoff.
That is emotional education. Not crappy mantras and crossed fingers that a one-liner will teach your daughter self-respect.
We don’t beg Hollie to do things that “make her heart feel bad”. But we don’t let her win every fight either.
We encourage. We insist. We fight. Then we hug her and we all apologize and we say we won’t fight again.
But we do. Because we think it's worth the fight to get her to try new things and she thinks it’s worth the fight to get what she wants.