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Monday Morning Parenting: What To Do When You and Your Kid Have a Personality Conflict

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mother-and-Child
Robert Bevan [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
When my obstetrician confirmed my belief that my firstborn was going to be a girl my heart soared with joy, my mind filled with happy thoughts, and my spirit floated to cloud nine. I vowed we'd have a mother-daughter relationship to rival Hillary and Chelsea, Beyonce and Tina, Joan and Melissa!

My beautiful baby girl was born August 15, a numerical mirror of my birthday May 18, which I took as a symbol of how tight we'd be. I began daydreaming of all the things we'd do together...wear matching outfits, host tea parties for the teddy bears, read books under the covers. Later on, we'd have conversations with our foreheads touching and shop for her prom dress. I even built a blog around my great expectations.

Then my daughter turned 1, and she became a little person complete with her own developing identity and individual personality. Imagine my shock (and horror) that she was the opposite of me in almost every way. I'm introverted, she's extroverted. I'm low energy, she's high energy. I'm a neat freak, she likes to get messy. I'm a homebody, she's a social butterfly. I'm a people-pleaser, she does what she pleases. You get the point.

Our divergent personalities became more pronounced as she got older. I would want to snuggle on the couch reading books and she would get fidgety after two minutes because she can't stand to sit still. Things came to a head when she was about 2.5 years old. Our personalities were constantly clashing and I inwardly lamented that we'd never be close. Then her preschool teacher recommended a book that changed my outlook and changed the course our relationship. How to Raise Your Spirited Child opened my eyes to a new world of parental engagement. I learned how to work with my daughter's personality type and our interactions have improved.

But our differences still cause problems sometimes. Marlie is a button-pusher, sassy, and possesses a self-confidence that borders on obnoxious. I find myself being unnerved by these qualities because they are so not me. After one particular exhausting day of butting heads, I put my psychology hat on and came up with two solutions:

  • Find common ground: Even "odd couples" have things in common. Luckily for me and my daughter, I didn't have to dig deep to find our shared interests. We both like reading, creating art, and running. I make sure we bond over these activities. When we engage in activities that we both enjoy there is no tension or resentment and everyone is fulfilled.

  • Find a surrogate: When the gap between you and your child seems so wide that you cannot imagine a way to bridge it, find someone or something to fill in. For me that person is my daughter's father. They are very much alike so he can relate to her better on many levels. Am I jealous? I used to be, but now I am relieved that she has someone in her life who understands her. I also enrolled her in preschool and extracurricular activities so that she is getting her social needs met because I'd spend all day curled up on the couch with a book if it were up to me.
Are you and your kid(s) alike or different? How do you bond?

16 comments:

Christa aka The BabbyMama said...

P. and I are very alike, but it still doesn't make for a perfect happy home! That alikeness comes with challenges all its own :) I think the solutions you propose hold true in the opposite case, too.

Great post!!

Grace said...

I have found as a parent sometimes I just had to pick my battles. I think you have found a great path to tread. I took my son out on 'dates' when I felt we were becoming 'too' different from one another to bridge the gap. Movies seemed to be something we both enjoyed attending with one another.

Sandy a la Mode said...

these are some great tips! i can see this time coming w/ my child...

xo,
Sandy
Sandy a la Mode

Jenn Mitchell said...

Really great ideas. My daughter and I really bump heads sometimes. This will be very helpful.

Jenna Wood said...

It's great to see some advice on this topic. Many parents ten to just get frustrated and take it out on the kids through resentment or ignoring.

Tiffany Cruz said...

My 5-year old and I are already butting heads. She's growing into her own and I'm having trouble with her talking back and not listening. I hope it gets easier but I'm afraid it will get worse first. Then I think we butt heads because we are so alike, just like my mom and I. Your post made me stop and think. I like what you said, Find a surrogate!

Still Blonde after all these YEARS said...

I always try to meet my kids where they are. If they enjoy Karate, I take Karate session with them. If they play football, I go play football with them. If they are into computers, I try to find one thing there that I can relate to. Didn't always work but it did a lot.

Melissa Pezza said...

Thanks for the great post! My daughter and I really but heads sometimes already and this is great advice!

Cheap Is The *New* Classy said...

Sadly, it's hard to realize for some parents that their kids are totally different people than them. They have a really hard time finding common ground. I have seen so many parents that look like they are living through their kids and they project their own interests on their kids.

Dawn

Two Little Cavaliers said...

What a fantastic article. I think that a lot of parents forget that their children have their own personalities, needs, wants, and desires and they will not always gel with their own. Its great that your daughter's teacher was able to recommend a book that has not only helped you but allowed you to help other parents struggling with the same issues.

Quiana said...

Wow Nia with her August 12 birthday sounds just like Marlie! I'm adding that book to my Amazon cart - I've heard good things about it too. Thank you!

Maureen Sklaroff said...

My eldest daughter has Bi-polar II, but was not diagnosed until her teens. She and I butted heads a lot when she was younger, but now I consider her to be one of my best friends. Raising Your Spirited Child was very helpful for me with her. Another book that was very helpful, not just with her, but with all of my kids, was The Bipolar Child. The advice it gives is just good, all around. The author discusses putting things into various categories. If I remember correctly, Category A is for non-negotiables, such as safety issues. Category B contains things that are negotiable, but you still feel strongly about. Category C is for things that just aren't worth fighting about. I was surprised by how many Category C things I would choose to fight about. For instance, one time, my middle daughter refused to wear her matching jacket that I had bought for our Christmas portraits. She didn't even want to take the picture, much less wear a jacket like her siblings (each got their own color and she actually liked the jacket the rest of the time). I finally gave up and took it with her not in the jacket and everyone else in their jacket and the portrait looked really "stupid" in my mind. I later was talking to a therapist that I was seeing at the time and I said, "It was so frustrating, why couldn't she just do this one thing my way?!?!?" And he replied, "Why couldn't you just do this one thing her way?" It totally stopped me in my tracks to look at it that way and majorly changed my approach to parenting.

Help! Mama Remote... said...

Words of wisdom!!!!!Our epectations......Give us a good taste of reality, but learning how to work through it is what matters. Thanks for sharing these tips.

MommaWannabe said...

This is very educational! My baby just turned two and I think we get along pretty well but he's a boy so I don't know yet how it will be
when he's bigger.

Kalley C said...

This sounds like my daughter and me. You're right, you must find common ground and work at it. My daughter is 3 and is pushing buttons and trying to find out if she can get away with anything. This is the stage for me to nip a lot of that stuff in the butt.

Kim said...

I've heard of this book. The new issue I'm trying to tackle is Deaglan's naughtiness out in public. We were at the bank opening accounts for the kids a few weeks ago and I was mortified by his behaviour (crawling under the lady's desk to get a toy, not listening when I was hissing for him to sit still. I think I have him good and scared of the consequences should he act like this again in public but I'll tell you it's not easy dealing with all that energy.

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