A few days ago, I started a conversation with my daughter. This was a couple of hours after an argument and an ensuing tantrum (with tears and the works) over why the Frozen theme song, which had been played several times a day every day for the past two weeks, should not take precedence over Christmas songs on the family car radio.
I told her that she had been naughty, and that if she was selfish and threw a tantrum again, I would have to report it to Santa Claus the following year.
To which she replied “I will never sleep with you again. I will sleep with Popo i.e. Grandma tonight.”
What? I looked at her. Did she just say that?
I asked her to repeat what she said, and she did.
My mind was trying to comprehend this. My daughter – who up until now was still relying on me to dress and sometimes feed her, who up until a couple of weeks ago was still a sweet little girl trying hard to show Mommy that she was a grown up, who I could still so distinctly remember as a baby in my arms not that long ago – was now not only understanding my weak point but actually using that to threaten me. How did this happen overnight?
My brain tried very hard to work out the best way to respond. Instinctively I demanded that she was not to talk to me like that ever again. That was met with a why, and I could not see how any reasoning I gave at that point would be met with true understanding on her part. So I retorted that it was because I was her mother and that she should always listen to me. Even as those words left my lips, I knew that this was not going to work in the long run. From my end I wanted to raise a child who could think for herself in the future and not just followed orders. Also this was a rationale that did not sit well with any inquisitive child, so it only resulted in more why’s and a whole heap of mumbled lecturing on her part which only she understood.
I then tried another tactic. I threatened / bribed her back. I said that if she went to sleep at Popo’s, I would have to give her toys to her brother. Now as you would know, you should never threaten a child unless you were really going to carry out your threats otherwise she would very soon learn not to take you seriously. Which was exactly what happened. She considered it for 2 seconds and then laughed it off.
My last attempt was to distract and leave the conversation, with the intention of talking about this with her again in the near future when she was in a better mood and I, better prepared. I went off and prepared a bubble bath for her and her brother and she soon forgot about our chat.
That night I went to my friend Google to ask how I should deal with a defiant four-year-old. There were quite a few websites that posted about this topic, and this article was one of my favourites.
Ah, the wonderful age of four.
I now come to realisation that the first era of parenting has passed for me – gone are the days when most of what I have to worry about are her physical needs, gone are the days when all she wants from are cuddles and my singing; gone are the days when she would take my words as gospel and trust what I tell her without questions.
We are now entering the realms of emotions, independence, defiance, imagination and understanding of concepts; and it is only the beginning. I cry a little inside for the baby girl that is no longer, but at the same time look forward to the excitement and new challenges of welcoming a little girl who is starting to understand and question the ways of the world. What we teach and show her now would more important than ever in helping her become the adult that we want her to be.