I had always believed in getting my older child to do what I want her to do (eat vegetables, go to bed early) by reasoning with her. Of course, as she grew older, the ‘reasoning’ became arguing and sometimes even yelling. When I felt ashamed that I had raised my voice and called names, I would tell myself that she had pushed me to the limit. After all, I had still communicated why she needed to do certain things.
With my younger son, however, I find that coaxing does not work. Neither does yelling. So I have to resort to some imaginative storytelling, some exaggeration (white lies?).
I used to find this distasteful earlier; I used to believe (rather naively) that if children are told why something is good for them, they will eventually come around to doing it.
I now realize that given constraints of time and mommy energy, I have to resort to methods that I earlier looked down upon as ‘underhand’.
Let me give you an example – my son needs a hair cut every three weeks (yes!) which he detests. I tried explaining the reason (he gets a bad cold otherwise). I tried saying firmly that he has to get a haircut, no choice. But he refused to budge. And it is not practical to transport a kicking, screaming four year old boy.
Then came the saving grace – a policeman! Yes, there was a neighbour who dropped by, in full uniform. And since my son wants to grow up to be a policeman, I pointed out the really short hair…and lo behold, my son was ready for a hair cut!
Now, when my son gets too rough with his sister or friends, or when he refuses to eat vegetables, I say, “A policeman is rough only with thugs.” or “How will you chase thieves if you dont eat veggies and become strong?”
While these methods are highly effective for my son (and are a blessing in disguise for my vocal chords), I still have not reconciled fully to this approach.
Should I not get my child to do what I want him to do, simply because it is the ‘right’ thing to do?