We were having breakfast and my daughter was making a fuss about the crust of her bread. She did not want to eat it. I, on the other hand, was insistent that breakfast wouldn’t be over until the last bit of crust made its way into her tummy.

Her response?

‘But Aunty O removed that part when I went to her house. She didn’t make me eat it’

I replied with, ‘Then maybe you should move in with Aunty O because in our own house we eat that part of the bread’

I’m sure, as parents, many of us can relate with my experience. You know, as you are trying to correct your child, he/she interrupts with stuffs like…

‘But Bisi’s mom allows her to…’

‘Aunty Sola lets me…’

‘That’s the way my friend, Amaka, does it…’

‘Grandma said…’

Yes, these children are struggling to understand why we are making such a fuss over issues that are irrelevant in other homes.

Now, the easy way out will be to sweep the brewing dialogue under the carpet and just make the child obey us. Period. As in, no discussion. Just do as mommy has said.
Well, as easy as that approach may appear, it is nevertheless short-term because the child will be obeying because he has no choice but to obey. Hence, as soon as he has the opportunity to choose between ‘your way’ and ‘their way’, despite years of doing things your own way, he is likely to go with their way because he lacks understanding of the principle/value behind your own way. Besides, doesn’t the forbidden fruit always appear sweeter?

Now, with this in mind, I try not to bully my child into obedience in such situations. What I now do is to first explain why my own way is different.

So, first, I explain that we live in a world filled with ‘differences’. Hence, the way we do things in our own house may be different from the way things are done in other houses. For example, I may say, ‘I know Onome’s mommy allowed her to, but you know I am not Onome’s mommy? I am your own mommy and I don’t want you to…I will not allow you to…’

Then I break it down, letting the child know that the reason why she cannot eat that or wear that or go there is because of XYZ reasons. In simple terms, I spell out the repercussions and rewards of doing ‘things’ in XYZ ways. I let her know that I am insistent because I love her and want her to reap rewards, not repercussions.

Okay, let’s face it, children are smart. When they realize that you are indulging them in a conversation of some sort, they may begin to think that they actually have a choice in the matter. So, when i see such cheekiness coming up, I may have to remind my child that she really has no choice in this matter because at the end of the day, that is the way we have always done and will continue to do things in our own house, not forgetting the fact that the things we do, we do for a reason.

Finally, I also make sure I do not make it about the other parent or the other child because we all know how children can be. As in, in their exuberant innocence, they can actually go and tell their friends that you said XYZ about them (and their parents) and that ABC will happen to them if they continue that way. So, yes, I try to make sure that the focus stays on our own family. That is, what we do or do not do and not what the other family does or does not do.

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