Do you know when every silly and simple request during the day transforms into a screaming struggle? That's how life with strong-willed children can be. I hadn't even known there was a definition for it. "Parenting the strong-willed child. What do I do now? Is it a condition? Is it curable? Isn't it just normal that my child wishes to impose her will and can't yet control her emotional reactions? Or are we having misleading expectations? From strategy to understanding, your problem may become a life-changing gift.
Persistence vs Strong will
Having a strong will was something I've always believed and being told to have. To me, it meant that if I had an objective, something I really cared for, I was ready to fight, wait, and fight again despite the obstacles. Like, nothing can stop me, right?
Then one day, I have this creature in my arms. I smile, she smiles. And then little things, like me holding the spoon instead of letting her do it, or choosing which dress to wear, would ignite a fire.
She was, what, 14 months? She couldn't even talk yet. But she wanted to decide what clothes she should wear. What books we should look at. What and how much food to eat.
I was amazed at the fierce response whenever I tried to impose my own decision. I mean, I'm you mother ! I'll show you who's in control...
Mine was called persistence (or stubbornness!). One where despite my capability of never letting go, I still needed to be liked and loved by everybody.
Where I struggled with the food I ate, the looks I got, and I was so worried about other people's opinions that for such a long time I forgot to check on what I wanted and needed. How can I win with a toddler who already knows all this?! And mostly - should I try to change her?
Are you kidding me? Are we still talking about rules and the value of discipline?!" If the topic makes you snort and you're about to click elsewhere, wait a second! Think about the last time someone blocked your car in the parking lot to avoid walking 10 meters more. Or when your child didn't want to do his homework, and you justified him in front of the teacher. Then, however, when he once again refused to put his dirty socks in the laundry bin instead of leaving them around the house, you couldn't take it anymore and you yelled at him.. The problem today is that there are no more rules! Kids don't have any boundaries! Ever heard those sentences? No panic. But if you dream of a bright and satisfying future for your children, then it is worth looking at the value of discipline a little more closely.
Let's start from the beginning. Do you know when, about around 8-10 months and up, your baby starts crawling around, proudly exploring his world? At some point, he turns to you, and he looks at you with an inquisitor eye.
Not by chance. It's called social referencing. Your child is implicitly asking you: What should I do now ?
Will he find a terrified face, a semi-threatening look, or a great, encouraging smile?
Come on, we do it automatically! Remember what we saw about the baby's brain? Since such a young age, if their brains depict a smile on us, some chemical reactions take place, releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which makes us feel so good. The repetition of this connection between action and positive reaction reinforces it - that is: if I try to put on my feet, my mom looks ecstatic and I feel like a hero, so let's do it again! The brain will try to reproduce the same situation to have the same positive answer.
This process applies to any learning. Children have no idea how they should behave in the various situations and places they encounter, and they look at us to figure out how to do it.
Because in the world there are different social and geographic situations, which require very diverse adaptations, we are born with a brain that still largely needs to develop : it grows on the basis of the social and relational experiences that it faces.
A yes or a no it's no more than very important guidelines to know where and how to move, and they offer an extreme sense of safety.
This year, I will finally change everything! Ever thought this sentence? Maybe after New Year's Eve celebrations? The melancholy for the end of another year takes us.. But we have good resolutions this time! And this raises our morale, we can regain our strength and look up to the future with renewed optimism. A new white sheet.. What makes us perceive, in the space of a single night, this need to give new impetus to our lives? And above all .. Why planning your year, and how make you actually achieve those goals, when you're already all so busy with your kids, your everyday life?
Why planning your year... Are you Ben?
December 31st, 11 p.m. Ben looks at the light's reflection on his already half empty glass. His friends and wife are laughing at a joke he didn't listen to.
Why are we celebrating again anyways? Why waiting until midnight? It's a night like any other.
Ben is very tired, he worked until late in the afternoon at his desk, and now he would finally want to indulge in sleep. Without thinking, without wasting time to renew a meaningless tradition.
In a few days, they'll go skiing for the weekend, so as to emptying their minds. His wife loves traveling.
And so he has to work hard, to pay for the trips, the few outings, his son's school.
Maybe I'll ask for an increase in my next annual interview. They didn't give it to me last year, maybe I'll ask them this time. I'm always there when they need it.
Anyway, it's always like that. People are always there to take, but when it comes to giving.. I don't know when I have the appointment with my boss, but when that happens, I'll improvise something for sure.
Come on, we have to go back to the conversation, one more hour, and then maybe we can go home..
Here we go. We have been thinking about the many facets of this single day for months. Despite your attempts to prepare, organize, improve the whole process.. Come on, every year we fall into the same patterns. Christmas stress because of the last-minute gifts; for trying to satisfy the desires (masked by more or less compelling needs) of half the family.. obviously in contrast with each other, and in contrast with yours. Sometimes, you just wish the holidays were over. How can you overcome Christmas stress? In finding what matters...
Why are we victims of Christmas stress?
What is Christmas today? Beyond its strong religious significance, that may not be shared by everyone, it remains a universal Holiday that is celebrated in many parts of the world. This website shares Christmas traditions of about 80 countries in the world!
If we all gather under the red and the white a big man carrying the gifts in the name of the family, of the importance of giving and sharing joy; why does Christmas easily foster disagreements and anxieties?
What expectations do we have for these special 24 hours ? Where being alone puts you at suicide's risk, but sharing it with extended families is equally problematic?
Always be true. That's something I claim as important, or even fundamental, throughout this blog and my writings. Model honesty to your kids. Why would I declare loud and clear here that you can make an exception to this rule and lie to your kids about Santa? Many of you let their child believe in some kind of character that brings presents between December and January. I do it mainly because that's how I've grown up too.. Don't you? But you know, from time to time, I like to challenge myself by reconsidering things I do automatically.. If you're like me and need some change in perspective, here's my guide on why you could choose to lie to your kids about Santa, without harm to the relationship with them.
The debate around the Big Lie
I read and heard controversial opinions about whether it is good or not to lie to your kids about Santa. Psychologists, developmental experts, and parents around the web animate the debate. (you can read one of these interesting articles here, to name one). Kids should know the truth from birth. Or, you can lie when they're under 3, but then you need to tell them. Go with a white lie : you don't say he exists, but you don't say he doesn't exist either. Your kid will figure that out some day.
What's your position, by the way? And how does it make you feel? Are you comfortable with plain lying to your child, or do you feel awkward and come up with the strangest solutions?
These 7 points may come in handy 😉
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 1 : We can build our own myth
Even as an adult, I love indulging into this idea of a sweet, funny man, with his hoard of elf and reindeer, taking the burden of transporting a massive amount of presents all around the world. Of course, I KNOW it's a fantasy; but sometimes, I just like to imagine it could be real.
This, of course, raises all kind of issues. For instance, when we donate presents for disadvantaged children, the first question would be : Why doesn't Santa bring gifts to those children, first? My kids haven't asked me that question yet. And don't think I would lie then.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 2 : I believe in magic
When I was a kid, I LOVED anything Christmas-related. It was a dream, a fantasy made true. In Italy, besides Father Christmas, we have a female figure, called Befana.
She is a sort of good witch who comes in the night before January 6th. Children hang socks up the chimney, and the Befana puts sweets and candies. When I'd found out that Father Christmas didn't exist, I was so happy to at least have the Befana (sounds silly right? How in the world could I not make 1+1?). That very Christmas my parents left a handwritten, shaky note from the Befana on our window-still. I was radiant.
So much so, that I was still fantasizing over what magical trick I could have asked to Befana.
One day, I told my mom "Mom, I can ask Befana to give me a magic wand! And with a magic wand, I'd make money disappear, and we could all exchange things, and everybody would be happy!" and my mom kept answering that it wasn't possible, and I kept asking "Why?" (I was probably very insistent). In the end she snapped "But Befana doesn't exist, she can't give you a magic wand, magic wands don't exist either!"
And I wept against the car window, still thinking that magic DOES exist!
I wasn't mad at my parents for the lie. I was mad because I still wanted to believe. So I basically made up a compromise. I thought that maybe Santa does exist, but can't come up to where we live. Maybe he just brings presents to the children nearby. As long as I couldn't verify that he didn't exist, than he could still be somewhere, right?
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 3 : I don't want them to be good
One of the reasons why some claim it is bad to let your children believe in Santa, is because they shouldn't be afraid of not deserving love (and presents) when they don't behave as expected. And I completely agree : I also want my children to know they are loved NO MATTER WHAT.
And therefore, I don't usually tell them "You'd better be good or you won't have any present!" Sometimes they ask me. Do you think I was good enough? "You're ALWAYS good enough. Sometimes you make poor choices, or you do something I don't like."
Don't tell your kids that Santa brings them presents as a prize for good behavior. He brings presents because he loves to make little children happy. It all depends on the message we give them! There are other ways to teach our child to cooperate.
Because the issue here isn't about Santa. It's about the way we parent our children; for instance, by replacing menaces and punishments with consequences for poor choices. (There's a major difference in the meaning of the words we use with our kids, and the lessons they can learn!) It's about fostering intrinsic drives for positive behavior, instead of external rewards.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 4 : Let's talk about our values
Taking the time to think about the important people in our lives, sharing a nice moment.. But let's face it. The majority of us, even the most organized ones, always end up rushing through December in a constant buying mode.
We have a list and we tackle it with the urgency of a major deadline in front of us. It becomes a source of stress right?
There had been years when I hated Christmas. I hated that everything was a MUST. Even decorations.
But you know what? Despite all the stress, the moment I see a friend or relative light up because I gave him something he likes, that moment repays me off everything.
Truth is, we should give presents (and by that I mean a kind word, an unexpected phone-call, some of our time) throughout the whole year. But the routine catches up and it becomes difficult to maintain this good proposal.
Christmas time reminds us of the people that are important. Of the importance of thinking about them all, and figuring out what could make them smile. What could make them happy. We finally take the time to think about our loved ones, their passions and tastes, and pick up something we imagine they can enjoy.
And I think explaining all this process to our children is also a nice lesson for them. Because Christmas is, most and foremost, about giving and sharing. Santa is what we tell our children. It's, for me, a good occasion to talk about our values.
Of course, you can very well do the same without Santa's involvement. He just creates a very good excuse for talking about it with powerful images.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 5 : Sharing memories and traditions
As a child, I used to leave Santa and his reindeer a glass of water, and sometimes something to eat. We would think :"Poor them, they have to work so hard, they'd be happy to restore a little". Sometimes we left him our drawings or notes, to thank him.
I loved this tradition, and the caring message involved; and I just like that we continue to maintain this tradition alive, by adapting it to our own family with slight touches. I think those are such sweet and lasting memories, and they're the most precious gift we can offer our children as it partly shapes who we are.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 6 : Encourage their own thinking
My children haven't asked me THE QUESTION yet. "Is Santa real?" I don't think I would plainly and blatantly lie by saying "Of course!", and I don't encourage you to do that either. (So maybe as in this respect : No I don't think it's good to directly lie to your kid. Not in front of a direct question.)
Depending on their age, children will gradually start to make their own version of the truth.
I would turn the question into another question. "Who knows? What do you think?" And if they asked me what I do think, I'd tell them my truth : "I think it is nice to believe that there is someone that cares about you so much".
That reminds us of the importance and the beauty of giving. I like to imagine that there's someone who just spends his life preparing and giving presents to make children all around the world happy.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 7 : Telling the truth or sparkle with hope?
Finally, I'd say.. Sometimes, we do feel it is ok to lie to people. When we have bad news for instance.
Imagine you're sick or having serious trouble, and you're on the phone with your old mother who can no longer help you with such matters, but still worries like crazy about you. Would you tell her "Don't worry mom, everything's under control!" Or would you tell her the plain truth; knowing she can do nothing but feel a lot of pain for not being of help? The answer is personal, and I don'think there's a right one or a bad one. I just think it would be justified to lie.
And I feel is a little of the same story here : Believing in magic and sharing this excitement make children dream and smile so much. They'll find out it's a myth. And we can tell them that we just wanted them to dream for a few years, and share their dream.
When we have a honest and deep relationship with them, Santa will not matter.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Either way...
Either way.. It all depends on what you convey. According to your own beliefs and priorities, it's the message you give that will shape the relationship with your kids. But not just at Christmas time. Sharing nice moments together.. With or without Santa. 🙂
What have you told your kids? Did you believe in Santa as a child, or in any other figure? Did that reshape your relationship with your parents? Share your thoughts and stories! The debate is ongoing, it's interesting to open our perspectives!
A few found books to talk about Christmas with your child
Some amongst many worthy books (affiliate links) :
I find it difficult to start this letter; sharing your memories seems childish now that you can't read my words; let others read what was thought around you. And yet the idea of writing to you has not sprouted by chance; it'll be a message in a bottle, thrown in virtual waves.
I'm still angry you left. When I try to bring back to my conscious self some sharp images of you, the pain is so strong that I cast them away.
These days you would have turned 90. My kids don't know who you are. I tried to find valid reasons not to write to you. But deep down, I heard I still had something to say before I could let you go. Why now, after more than ten years? I don't know, grandma. I have probably discovered the message that I hope will come to others' heart, if not to yours.
Maybe you have kids. Maybe you have a job that keeps you much more than busy; Or, you have 3 000 different interests and you find yourself, despite your best intentions, with the agenda of a CEO. And you add, task after task, because everything is important; Until the moment you no longer have the strength to get up and you dream of spending the day in bed. The season would be conducive.. So how do we improve our daily lives? Are there any tricks to regain positive energy in your tickled and distracted lives? Without necessarily having to wait for the next vacation? Here are some useful reflections!
Personal statement. I know some tricks to regain positive energy, and yet..
For several weeks I slept less than 7 hours a night. I quit my yoga class. Filled my agenda until Sunday midnight. At first I managed well, felt almost more effective. Then, little by little, signs came up. Strong headaches right when picking up the kids. My back and neck become stiff. Feeling down.. Negative thoughts.. And a lot, a lot of fatigue.
One afternoon I decided to pick up the kids earlier to have time and play with them. I tried to forget my not-yet-completed to-do-list, and hugged my son tight. Then we got to my daughter's school. A slight headache.
The phone rang just when we were in front of her class.. I spent three minutes on my phone, while my daughter was trying to show me her drawings.
And then, I don't remember exactly, maybe her brother took her a piece of afternoon snack; she burst into desperate tears. My headache rising, while I still had the phone in my hands, and the other moms talking to me at the same time.
By the time we got to calm down, and go home, we barely had enough time to take a bath and prepare dinner. I try my best everything to do more things with my children.. up to the point that I no longer have the energy to be with them. Click.
We live in a multi-everything world, and we're more and more connected to each-other. Yet, diversity is still an issue. Why accepting differences? Why is talking about diversity so important? And how can we teach it to our children? Here I share some thoughts about why accepting differences is so difficult to us, and yet such an important asset for our well-being and our children's future. Ready?
What does diversity mean, to start with?
In the public discourse nowadays, when we hear the word "diversity" we immediately think about either gender diversity or racial diversity. Sometimes we even take into consideration religion and handicap. But there's more..
Do you sometimes feel like you've lost the true meaning of your life? Have you ever wondered what's the purpose of your daily struggles in finding the right priorities and balance? Because I do. And I've started questioning myself on which strong values I want to let my children grow up with. What message my life is unconsciously sending them.. This amazing story of a Syrian mother will truly inspire you in finding the right answer to these questions.
The Amazing Story of a Syrian Mother - How we meet
Remember my friend Ichiko? For today's post I asked Razan to share her story with us. Razan is the mom of one of my son's friends and classmates in kindergarten. We meet several times a week when we both bring our kids to school. She isn't the ordinary mom though, as I only found out a few weeks ago. And because of her story and courage and background, I believe what I'm about to tell you will truly inspire you in your own life.
Razan and I meet in a local French café close to the school, in what is a residential and affluent Dresden neighborhood. As I've always seen her, she's impeccably dressed, perfect make-up and broad smile on her face and in her eyes, and in a hurry.
Because she is the director of an International development association, registered in the United States, Turkey, and Germany, whose mission is "supporting civilians and organizations with the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to actively shape and participate in a peaceful and democratic future."
Razan and I
So you can picture my naive self, coming from the comfortable world, with my messy hair and basic make-up (although my daughter insists in watching me putting it on, so that she can learn from me.. !!), my worn-out-from-bike-riding pants; and her, with a silky shirt, all colors matching, elegant and so strong.
(But don't worry, I'm not going into the comparison game, each one of us has is own story and style; I just want you to picture us, sitting outside of this cozy café, enjoying an unlikely spring air in the midst of an end of a cold October week.
I don't think I'm the only one who has to face this dilemma almost every day: how to make children eat more vegetables and less sugar and chocolate? I don't always want to cook different dishes to satisfy everyone's tastes. Moreover, we want to convince children to eat healthy, but do we know the effects of certain foods on behavior? Here's my top tips to get your kids to eat (healthy), tricks and discoveries to experience calmer, peaceful meals !
At the beginning, she would eat anything...
Let's go back in time. When my eldest daughter was about 18 months, she ate everything. But really just about everything ! Ok, maybe not broccoli (I can understand). I remember when, during a vacation on the seaside (she had just turned 2), we went to the fishmonger and she looked so transfixed at the clams that the fishmonger gave her one that she kept happily between her hands. (And then tasted with pasta later 😉 )
Then, suddenly, something has changed. Little by little, she loved less and less food, and she eliminated one by one the products on her list. Up to the point when I could only choose between pasta with tomato sauce and pasta with olive oil and fish sticks (and the only vegetables were the tomatoes in her ketchup).
I'm not talking about the opposition's phase, when children reaffirm their identity and they will oppose to anything we propose. Maybe it started because of that ... but now, 2 years later, my daughter should be out of that phase! (Or maybe she's in permanent opposition ..)
As this transition was slow, I did not understand my reaction at first. I would constantly search for something my kids would like. I did not want to force them to eat so as not to associate the meal with a power struggle. And sometimes, I was just tired and I did not want to argue.