"Wash my hands? What's that? You've NEVER asked me do this before in my entire life!"
- The look Ollie gives me most of the time when he comes home and I ask to wash his hands.It’s amazing how fast and efficient Ollie is at getting his shoes and jacket on . . . when he feels motivated to do so. One of the challenging things about toddlers is that the combination of their larger size and their stronger will means that everyday processes like taking off shoes and washing hands when you come back home from an outing can become a monumental task.
On one hand I want Ollie to be an independent and thoughtful person who doesn’t just comply to requests without thinking. I like that Ollie challenges me to explain the reasons why we ask him to do things. I want him to do this and work to understand the world around him, even when it’s beyond his capacity to understand. I didn’t choose to be parent so that I could have someone to order around.
At the same time, it can get exhausting to have to deal with his protest to take off his coat and jackets and wash his hands almost every single time we come home. We’ve been doing this routine almost his entire life and most of the time he refuses to do it as he did today and just simply flopped on the ground. Other times when I've told him he could have some crackers when we got home after he took off his shoes and washed his hands, he immediately did all of these things by himself.
It’s not a big shock that Ollie is has some need-based motivational patterns. Most kids do, but most also learn to comply for the sake of being “good” at a certain point. I clearly remember a moment when I was four or five when I decided to just do things that my mom asked without protesting and then my life got a ton easier.
Part of this has to do with our parenting style. We aren’t that hard on Ollie and we do feel that it’s important that he has the freedom to be himself and explore who he wants to be. More important than his ability to follow directions is the nurturing of his spirit. No, we don’t let Ollie go crazy and get away with treating us and others disrespectfully but at the same time we don’t have a lot of issues with letting him dance around and sing a made-up song that delays bath-time, if he’s really into it.
We have a lot to learn from kids, even 3-year-olds. It’s important that we don’t let our frustration with our little ones blind us from what is really special about this age. Yes, he should take off his shoes when he comes home, but it’s also wonderful to see him run in and hug Diana immediately even if it means that he tracks mud into our house. Every time, he doesn’t comply with a request, I realized that maybe I need to ask him to do something in a different way. If you ask someone to do something four times and they don’t do it, there’s a good chance the problem is the way that you are asking the question.