Thursday, June 23, 2011

unconditional parenting | 6. r-e-s-p-e-c-t

here's one more in my series (albeit snail paced) on alfie kohn's unconditional parenting.

it should be stated right off the bat that i'm simultaneously at the best and worst place to be writing about this (or anything parenting related at all) today.

i'm pretty sure i've just come to grips with the fact that young bonzo here – at the ripe age of twenty three months – has found himself not requiring a nap daily.

we've been dancing around this for a while now but if i'm honest with myself and can look at what's going on from a place of non-resistance it's quite clear.
he's not ready not to nap. no sir. he needs a nap, this i know because when he naps, he naps long and hard. but lately there are days when i really cannot get him down, try as i might.
nursing, quiet time – and even a car ride to nowhere can't convince him to close his little eyes and snooze.

out of seven days, this is happening maybe three times – give or take.

and these days are tough for me until i stop resisting what is.
ah, so simple to type. and yet so hard to remember to do.

the sooner i stop trying to fit the square peg through the round hole (him not wanting/needing a nap and me wanting/needing him to) and can find my peace with is, the better – for everyone.

this is coming up today because – you guessed it – it turned out to be a no-nap day.
and i was a little late to accept things and too quick to resist resist resist.

it seems so trivial and silly typing all this out but i spent the better part of my day – since the first thwarted nap attempt – feeling annoyed and even a smidge... dare i say... angry.
eeek. ugh. i hate to admit that but it's true.
and now, at 7 o'clock in the evening, with the sun still high in the sky, bonzo's asleep for the night.

talk about a long lead-up to the point. but i'm getting there, promise.

i've been wanting to write the sixth installment to my unconditional parenting series for a while now and, as i said, today is both the best and worst day for me to dive into this. it's only the worst because i feel beat down today – but that's what might actually make this the best time, me thinks.


respecting someone means taking them seriously, holding them in a high regard, not interrupting them or belittling or dismissing their feelings. treating them as you'd like to be treated yourself.
it's easy to make a list of all the ways to respect someone. but it seems like a lot of the time, in our culture there is a definite line between respect that is had for adults versus children – it seems like the one who stands on the adult side of the line deserves the respect just because of where they're standing and the one who stands on the child side hasn't quite earned it yet.

certainly not always. but i've seen enough in my little world to notice a recurring theme. and it's sad.

alfie kohn quotes the great thomas gordon in this section: "children sometimes know better than parents when they are sleepy or hungry; know better the qualities of their friends, their own aspirations and goals, how their various teachers treat them; know better the urges and needs within their bodies, whom they love and whom they don't, what they value and what they don't."

and here's where my day today ties into the idea of respect, as mister gordon states above: bonzo knows better than me when he's sleepy. he just does. he's in his body. as always, i'm watching for his signals and actions, keeping to the rhythm of our day when naptime usually falls. but just because he's usually tired around noon doesn't necessarily mean he'll always be tired around noon. i make naptime available every single day and guide him towards it – sometimes effortlessly and sometimes with a little nudge. and usually he takes it even if it means he just eventually gets there after initially not being super inclined.

but i'm realizing – and today was truly the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back – that he knows if he's tired or not, and just as one cannot (and certainly should not) force a child who's not hungry to eat, one cannot force a child who doesn't want to sleep to go to sleep. at least not while still upholding our values and beliefs (as in, crying it out is not even remotely an option in our family. ever.)

i really have to stand back and respect that bonz knows his body and whether or not he's tired. even if he's just twenty three young months old.

please don't confuse this with permissiveness, though.

there are plenty of boundaries and limits being set and held at this house. i have not stepped aside and put bonzo at the helm of the ship.
i am not going to bend down and ask my almost-two-year-old if he wants a nap. no? okay! let's play then.
of course not. it's not healthy to let a child run roughshod over... well, anyone. parents included. i will still make naptime available, as always, but i have to respect what is if it's just not working despite trying.

i've realized, now that i can enjoy rational thought process, that if we've had a small handful of failed attempts, accepting things and adapting is truly the only way to go. unless i want to spend the rest of my day in a state of resistance – which is just about the shittiest place to be.

sometimes, dudes, it's so clear that bonzo's tired – exhausted even – and yet not giving into his nap for whatever reason. but back to the forcing. you can lead a horse to water, you know? i can sit there and tell him he's tired until i'm tired.
but overriding or negating a child's feelings or beliefs – about anything – really does undermine them to a point that they will start to second guess their internal compass and believe that their assessment of how they feel cannot be accurate if it cannot be respected.

and i realize, too, that at not-quite-two, we haven't really had to face serious situations where we find ourselves at forks in the road where choices get difficult and complicated. but we have always parented out of respect – first and foremost.
and i truly believe that the cornerstone to the respect that bonzo receives lies in the fact that he knows – and i know he knows – that his feelings are safe to feel. not to toot my own horn or nothin'.

anyways. respect. something to think about, right?



Camilleta said...

We're going through the same stage. I have people telling me not to let her drop her nap and I'm like, what do you want me to do, knock her out? Lol.

sara said...


blake said...

love this. respect for kids, for everyone, is a very good thing.