I have a four year old who is such a boy- all stubborn and strong willed, who often prefers loud one-syllable monster noises to more sophisticated conversation. Say he asks for a cookie and I tell him "no." Does he complain? No, but he ignores me, moves a chair next to the cabinet and tries to take a cookie anyway. He has a lot of time outs as a result. But at least he is motivated to listen by the threat of his current favorite toy (most recently, a toy rocket) being thrown in the trash or worse, given away to his sister.
Ah yes, let's move on to his sister. Five years old, newly independent at all day Kindergarten, my mostly-compliant child who loves calm things like reading and art, and has the verbal skills of a 45 year old. In fact, I think her superb verbal skills lend to one of her biggest vices: whining. If my daughter asks for a cookie and I tell her "no", does she rebel and try to sneak one behind my back? Certainly not. Instead, she asks for a cookie fifty different ways, from angles manipulative and emotional, hoping to wear me down so she doesn't have to break a rule. And while one can ignore the whining, it doesn't merit the same discipline as full on rebellion but is just as hard to curb as the stubbornness in my son.
Up until recently, I would have told you I preferred to deal with disciplining my compliant daughter than my son because generally she responds more easily to simple discipline. If she hurts someone, she cries before I ever make it into her room to punish her. If she isn't listening and I so much as raise my voice, she is instantly and tearfully repentant. In fact, she is not only compliant when I give directives, she actually comes and ASKS me permission for a ridiculous number of things. "Can I have this snack? OK, but it is a chocolate granola bar, is that OK? Can I wear my pink shoes? Can I color upstairs? Can I use crayons?" More often than not, my son just assumes I will be on board with whatever he wants to do so requests are unnecessary.
But lately, there has been a shift. Somehow dealing with timeouts and kicking and screaming and the taking away of the toys seems way easier than whiny manipulative meltdowns. Today, for instance, we were leaving from a friends to pick up my daughter from school, and my son kept opening the door before we were ready to leave. Sure, it was annoying, and I had to tell him no ten times, and had to threaten to take away that rocket. But then we got in the car and the issue was over. We went through our same old back and forth of wills routine, which is just that at this point- routine. Then we picked up my daughter. She was legitimately disappointed that my mom couldn't pick her up with me, so she pouted. I could have easily forgiven that, but after only 30 seconds she fully recovered from that and threw herself into being completed devastated that we couldn't go to the park. In 34 degrees. (Sorry kid, Mommy is not going to the park for anything less than 50 degrees, especially with a non-walking 11 month old in tow.) But the park she wouldn't let go. She whined, she pleaded, she cajoled- I finally buckled her in her seat (because she whined that she aaaaalways has to buckle herself), made a quick phone call, and left the parking lot...all the while she is doing that forced cry thing. You know. I finally gave her an ultimatum, which made her stop crying- but not before she snuck in a final manipulative parting shot, "My friends were at the park and I would be a little happier if I saw my friends."
I'm sure you would, kid, and I'd be happier if my car had a sugar-free latte machine built in, but we can't always get what we want. So even though I hadn't seen her since 8:30 am, between the 30 minutes of me picking her up from school and getting her home, somehow I already feel like I need an emotional break from her.
But is it really so stressful to handle because I'm so like her? I get so easily disappointed and have such a hard time reigning in my emotions and dump my same broken issues on my friends over and over again as though the very next time they will say something to fix me...which isn't so far from my daughter asking for the cookie. I wonder if part of my problem is getting so focused on myself instead of others-and part of it is choosing to complain and argue instead of letting things go and loving.
Philippians 2:1-4, 14-15 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others./ 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky..."
Turns out, maybe we don't outgrow some negative habits from childhood, maybe some are deeply grown into ourselves and have to be weeded out from time to time. But if looking to the interests of others, if learning to live without grumbling and complaining is part of becoming "blameless and pure", having unity, and shining hope brightly in this world, then I guess it is something I should let God work on in me. Even if it means a time-out and losing my favorite toy.
(The parenting, on the other hand- if someone has tips for handling the emotional whiny thing- I'm all ears.)