Are You a Parent ‘Reject’?
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost. Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline also now available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]
Capri points at the front door every morning and says, “Daddy, go!” Her daddy feels a bit rejected, especially on the weekends when he doesn’t have to go to work and his little girl cries because he won’t leave!
When Daddy and Luca play tickle monsters after bathtime, Mommy tries to join in, but Luca grabs Mommy’s hand and drags her back to her computer chair. Her mommy feels like she’s just the parent workhorse while Daddy gets to be the playmate.
Micah cries and yells, “No-no, Daddy!” when Daddy tries to help with bedtime. Daddy feels like he’s missing out on some of the most important memory-making parts of his little guy’s childhood.
While these parents’ feelings are, of course, valid, the rejection they are feeling is actually a misinterpretation of their children’s actions. Small children are creatures of habit. They’ve only recently arrived in this world and everything is strange and new and big and loud and confusing, so it makes sense that they find comfort and security in repetition and routine. That’s the reason they ask us to read the same book to them over and over and…well, you get the idea.
As they begin to learn and grow, they categorize things in order to understand them. That’s why right at first every animal is a ‘kitty’ and every drink is ‘juice.’ This same process of learning through categorization applies to relationships, as well. Children are constantly observing and studying their parents and the roles each of them play, and then using that information to construct a mental ‘schematic’ of their world.
If a child is accustomed to one parent doing the bedtime routine while the other is busy cleaning up after dinner, a sudden change in that routine may disrupt the little one’s schematic, and they will often resist or have a meltdown.
Understanding that it is the break in routine, the unexpected happening when a small child has settled in their mind what the ‘expected’ is, that is at the root of the issue can help a parent to overcome their feelings of rejection and focus on working toward a solution in a way that meets their child’s security needs.
Here are five ideas to try if you or your partner are a parent ‘reject’:
1.) When you know a routine is going to change, talk about it with your child ahead of time to prepare them. For instance, if your little one is used to Daddy going to work and you have a day off coming up, you can say, “Daddy gets to stay home and play tomorrow!” the evening before and then in the morning, “This is the day I get to stay home and play! What should we do first?”
2.) If you’d like to share the diapering duties, but your little one is used to just one parent doing the changes, start by having the non-diapering parent assist for a few changes, then switch roles, but continue to do it together until your baby is comfortable with the new routine.
3.) The same ideas apply to bedtime or bathtime routines, dropping off or picking up your little one from preschool, or any other routine your child is used to. If you need to change the routine, talk about it ahead of time to prepare them and then try to walk through the routine a few times together before switching roles or sharing the routine.
4.) If one parent has a special play time with your little one, instead of trying to join in, why not choose a separate time for the three of you to play together? That will allow them to have a special bonding time for just the two of them while providing an opportunity at another time for you all to bond as a family.
5.) Keep in mind that, especially for very young babies, their survival instinct may make them quite partial to their mommy for the first few months to a year old or even a bit beyond. That is a natural, normal, and healthy design inbuilt to ensure that they stay attached to their source of food and comfort. If a securely attached baby is having trouble bonding with anyone other than mommy, instead of trying to detach baby, try building your bond while baby is happy and content in mommy’s arms. Play peek-a-boo, make fishy-faces, read picture books, and just chat with baby. That will help your little one to begin to associate you with the same safety and comfort they feel in mommy’s embrace while building your own secure bond with them.
Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.