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My Three Year Old Daughter
A Born Leader, Not Bossy!

by Jessica
(Chicago, IL)

I have a three and (almost)a half year old daughter. She is awesome. Funny, sweet, smart, goofy, tough, and she has some real opinions about things. I particularly love this about her, though parenting a kid who is strong willed is such a challenge for me. I am sure some of this is just about being a three-year-old. But how much? I desperately do not want to pound any of this independence out of her.

I have grown up to be a woman who has felt insecure, passive, and unable to really identify my desires easily. I have improved greatly in these areas, in many ways just by becoming a mom! I would love to raise my daughter to be a strong woman without having to "overcome" any of these challenges.

I have found that when I ask her to do things - time for bath, wash your hands, time to turn out the lights, etc, I get so many Nos. Again, I understand that she is three... But I get so ANGRY!

I am accessing anger in a way I NEVER felt before. Is this just really cool? I finally feel angry? How do I lovingly move through it? And how do I best parent her so that she can continue to discover who she wants to be?

How can I encourage her to find her heart's desires without feeling that she must please me, but also teach her that sometimes "I'm the mom."

I do find that when I get in my vortex and align with myself, we get into a beautiful flow with one another. It's almost magical. Perhaps that is the answer. But what about on those days and moments when I am just not there?

Thank you!

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A Born Leader, Not Bossy!

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Parenting A Three Year Old - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Jessica,

Sounds like you are on an amazing journey with your daughter. There is nothing like having kids to bring stuff to our attention!

Our Children Are Our Teachers

Our children are our teachers, a three year old is a pretty good model for staying in the moment. But of course there will inevitably be clashes when as the parent you are taking care of the future, and she wants to stay playing with her toys!

That is one of the challenges in parenting, how to get kids to cooperate without getting mad! And yes, a three year old can be VERY bossy!

So I would suggest a couple of things. Firstly, you getting angry is not wrong. Just use that as an opportunity to figure out what you need. More often than not we are doing stuff as a parent that puts us out of sync. We might be tired and just want to go to bed. We might need some time out, we might be hungry. So be mindful of what you are needing.

It is not always about just wanting the child to do what you want. It might be that you need her to come to the dinner table so you can get on with your dinner. Maybe you had a bad night and you are not enjoying the household chores right now!

We are not here to be perfect. We are all on a journey of finding out what works best - and one of the biggest gifts we can give our children, is helping them to learn how to move through the struggles, to a place of feeling better.

All Feelings Are OK

It is great for your daughter to see your anger and frustration - but it is what you do with it that is important.

Showing her how you move yourself to a place of feeling better is one of the best things you can teach her. The goal is not to be a person with no anger or frustration - that simply is not real or human! But the goal is to use those feelings to figure out what you want differently.

Showing our children how we move through our anger and accepting our feelings is a very powerful lesson to learn. Most of us, particularly women, were not allowed to get angry. We had to be nice little girls.

So all those feelings get stuffed down and we loose touch with who we are and don't trust when we feel strongly about something. Then of course there ends up being a backlog of anger that compounds any feeling or reaction we have.

You get angry when she doesn't listen to your requests can be loaded with all the times you were not listened to from a young age.

So when our kids trigger strong feelings in us, it gives you the opportunity to look at your own stuff. And it gives you a priceless opportunity to model to your daughter that feelings are OK and how to handle them.

Part Two Follows . . .

Parenting A Three Year Old - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Parents Hold The Future Vision

Being a parent is a minefield of frustrations sometimes! We have to juggle so much, and most of our lives are lived by timetables. As the parent we are holding the greater vision of the future of the family, we know food has to be prepared, clothes washed and kids off to school. We know that if she stays up past bedtime she will not enjoy the day tomorrow.

We simply can't always go along with a 3 year old who can't see the bigger picture, and just wants to keep playing. Sometimes you just need them to co-operate!

Having just come back from two months living with my little grandchildren, one of whom has just turned three, I know how hard it can be sometimes to fit everything in without someone having a meltdown!

Allow For Transition Time

One of the things that sets kids off the quickest, is when we suddenly dump our demands on them. We can't expect them to be aware that in ten minutes time there will be a rush to the table, or to get out the door. As they get older they start to be more able to monitor time and manage things, but at three they are very much in the moment of going where their energy is, and that can change at the drop of a hat!

So firstly, try to give a few warnings when a transition time is coming up so they are not suddenly ripped from their play.

And if you can, make the next process as exciting as you can. To get their attention and have a child go along with your ideas, you have to make it more compelling than theirs! It does take a fair bit of energy sometimes, but if there is a
drama or a tantrum, that ends up taking loads more!

Kids do have to fit in with what you want a lot of the time, and we simply can't expect them to like it. If she gets angry, help her to express her feelings too. Much of it at three is being able to put words to how she feels. Language helps us to move from irrational explosion of overwhelming feelings, to expression and finding a way to feel OK.

Teach Children To Negotiate

Sometimes there is room for negotiation - help her to say what she needs and to work out a compromise. (This is NOT giving in to a tantrum.) Maybe she can have 5 minutes more to finish her drawing, or maybe you can both figure out a way to get to where you both get what you want. Perhaps you can book in some time to read to her or do a puzzle or something she wants after she has sat up for dinner.

Play and games are always the best way to both get things done, and also for you both to be enjoying yourselves. As you say, when you are connected and happy it is simply magical.

Part Three Follows . . .

Parenting A Three Year Old - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Incremental Choosing

The very nature of families and society is that there will be conflicting needs and timetables. Our task is to find a way to move to feeling good about what is happening, we don't have to actually feel sweetness and light all the time! When we don't, that is our cue to be mindful of what we would prefer.

Sometimes that is just a process of choosing something a bit nicer.

So when you become aware of feeling out of sync, your internal dialogue might be something like this: (And if you can verbalize it your daughter will learn too!)

I feel angry because my daughter won't come and wash up.
It's OK to feel angry, I'm just going to take a few minutes to sit with this and decide what I need.
I'm cross because I am tired and hungry.
I want to be a good Mom and feed my daughter a healthy meal.
I want to be able to get my chores done so I can relax after dinner and cuddle up with her and read a story.
I want to have fun with her and enjoy being a Mom.
Can I (or We!) figure out a way to have fun with this?

I could be the tickle monster that chases kids to the bathroom. We could have a race to see who gets washed up and up to the table first (let her win!). We could take dinner outside and have a picnic. We could figure out a silly game to play over dinner.

Kids love fun. They love when you are being silly or when you are laughing. So when you are not feeling in sync and connected, then just look for little things that will help you to drop the fight.

You don't have to move from frustration to joy and happiness, you just have to take baby steps to feeling better. Teaching our kids that is one of the most important things we can do. It also means you are teaching her that she can figure out ways to feel better even when she is frustrated.

Our being happy is not dependent on our kids doing what they are told, or getting what we want. We have to figure out ways to feel better no matter what is going on around us.

Easier said than done sometimes I know!

It sounds to me like you are are doing a fabulous job as a Mom. Don't give yourself a hard time, just take those frustrating moments as a reminder to move towards reconnecting, both with yourself, and with your lovely daughter.

Have fun,
Annie D :)

by: Jessica

Thank you so much for the thoughtful, insightful, and thorough response! I will be reading these words over and over again for sure. Love and light.

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