Conditionally Unconditional

As much as my life is defined by my role as a father, I will be the first person to admit that I am by no means a perfect one. In fact, I’m a lot more imperfect than I’d like at times. Our older daughter is “spirited” beyond belief. Honestly, she acts like a 13 year old more than a 7 year old and we struggle with maintaining balance when dealing with her. Unfortunately, a lot of our strategies don’t work and we shift them more than we should. We are very aware of the idea that we want to have our daughter recognize that her behavior is unacceptable, not her when we are having issues, but that line often gets blurred.

One of the most important things that we work on is communication, but sometimes I know I don’t hold up my end. My daughter is a font of want. I’ll often point out to her that the only thing she’s discussed with me is the things that she wants. I understand that there are deeper forces at play with the intense sense of need she has, but I don’t always have the patience to calmly explain why she can’t have an ice cream at 10 am, or a donut, or new shoes, or a new backpack (this isn’t an exaggeration and all of the requests came with in minutes). As such, we often slip into patterns of reward and punishment that we recognize probably aren’t the best strategy long term, but feel necessary to get a handle on our situation. There was an article in the NY Times yesterday that put these practices into troubling perspective.

After reading it, I did a bit better today. I just hope I can keep it up.

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