Welcome to the March 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Self-Expression and Conformity
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through self-expression. We hope you enjoy this month's posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Peaceful Parenting Applied.
My five-year-old is a shock to his grandmother's system.
He is a great kid — but not a compliant one.
I'm not sure why he pushes so many of her buttons, considering he's what most people would consider a "good" kid. Now, do I have problems with "good" being used to mean "easy"? Yes — yes, I do. And he was not "good" (read: easy and convenient) as a baby. But as a kid, he's a lot calmer, as well as charming, thoughtful, inventive, and sweet.
But my mom can't get over the fact that he's not obedient.
He's not even snotty about it, just matter of fact.
"Want to use your fork?" Nana will suggest at mealtime.
"No, that's ok," says Mikko as he continues to lift noodles to his mouth with his fingers.
"You have to wear your jacket — it might be cold."
"I'm not cold, Nana," he'll happily insist as he races out.
I was the exact opposite as a child. I leapt to please anyone in authority. I quailed before implied disappointment. My mom holds me up as an example of the best sort of child.
My niece, Mikko's cousin and my mom's only other grandchild, is of a similar obedient disposition. She tells my parents whatever they want to hear, and they eat it up. I think she's something special, too, and a very sweet and winning little girl — I totally see myself in her — but that doesn't mean that I don't equally appreciate Mikko's predilection for independent thinking.
For one thing, I don't care if he eats with his fingers or feels warm enough not to want a jacket. He won't be eating with his fingers when he's fifteen, and right now, it makes life easier for him and for us — he's been a slow developer for motor skills, not to the point of worry, but to the point of adapting expectations. If it's easier for him to manage fingers than a fork at this point, fine. At least he's eating. He's five. He's getting better with utensils, so I know he'll master fork skills eventually, but it's not something you pick up from nagging.
If I'm feeling very certain that he'd do better with a jacket on, I'll list my reasons. Often, he'll end up agreeing. Sometimes he won't, and then he either goes without or, if I have room, I'll tuck it in the bag. We specifically found a hooded sweater with a zipper front that's not as bulky and restrictive as a jacket that he likes more. It's easy enough to toss in the diaper bag for just in case, and usually he won't ask for it. My mom would rather not think the possibilities through and come up with compromises or list her reasons for wanting compliance — she thinks just stating her will should be enough.
We've been working on giving Mikko language and support to deal with situations and people like this. Because, despite his good nature, or I guess because of it, he does eventually get upset when someone in authority repeatedly shows her disappointment in him. When my mom spends several minutes and every meal occasion murmuring and making little jabs about his refusal to use utensils, Mikko will calmly meet the first half dozen suggestions with even-handed and polite "no"s. But at some point, he'll turn and look at Sam and me with bewilderment and hurt in his eyes, wondering why on earth his nana's persisting in beating a dead horse.
Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes has had her own hilarious (to me, and I think to her) run-ins with Mikko's attitude. He was eating over and she pointed out that her daughter had brought her dishes to the sink and asked if he wanted to bring his into the kitchen as well. "No, thank you," he calmly replied. (Maybe we all just need to stop framing things to him as requests, hey?)
She's helped me come up with ideas of what to say when a situation arises like that with my mom. For instance, I can say to Mikko at my mom's table, "It sounds like it's very important to Nana that you use your fork." Then she's feeling heard, and Mikko understands that in this instance, using a fork might be the easiest road after all. But there's also the implicit understanding that I don't care if he uses a fork, and I can make it explicit by saying so and yet repeating that Nana would appreciate it.
I think when it comes down to conformity vs. self-expression, there are always these balances to keep in play. I still believe my children need guidance and modeling, but I'm much more willing than some other parents (and grandparents) to let the littler things go. I want my children to know that they have a voice, and that I respect their preferences even as I work to find acceptable compromises within the rules and expectations of whatever new milieu we're in, like using a fork around Nana.
Above all else, I want to continue showing my acceptance of my "disobedient" child, so that he knows a noncompliant child is still an awesome one.
Visit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 29 with all the carnival links.)
- No Tattoos! (yet) - Jana Falls at Jananas is okay with tattoos. You just have to wait until you're 18.
- The Chains of Conformity -Destany at They are All of Me writes about teaching her children to be true to their own authenticity and... screw conformity, it's for sheep.
- Supporting Self-Expression in Children - At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy encourages her children to be themselves and express themselves accordingly.
- Encouraging Good Examples -Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work encourages her spirited preschooler to choose good examples to copy in order to discourage inappropriate learned behaviors.
- Supporting Your Child's Self Expression - Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she support's her daughter's desire to be herself despite objections from Rasta Daddy.
- Can a "good" child be noncompliant? - Lauren at Hobo Mama has a sweet-natured child who is anything but obedient. She likes him just fine, but his grandmother's not sure what to make of him.
- In Crowd or Outcast, March to Your Own Beat - Jorje of Momma Jorje compares some of the odd fashions of her own youth to some of the crazy stuff kids, and her teen in particular, are doing these days.
- Their bodies are their own - At Authentic Parenting, Laura questions society's claims on children.