Bringing a new child into a home is a big change for siblings. Older brothers and sisters need their own time to adjust and they also need their parents to be available to help them through this transition. Adoptions can often take place at the last-minute or with relatively short notice so the adoptive parents may not have had a chance to line up childcare or make new work arrangements. Many day care facilities have lengthy waitlists so preparing for this should begin as soon as parents discover it is a need. If a family plans to hire an in-home caregiver, they'll need time to search for and interview candidates.
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Even if they are lucky enough to have family members who are available to help, those relatives will often need time to adjust their schedules. Adoption is important, and it's so beneficial to bring awareness to the lack of parental leave in this country. Even if you aren't planning to adopt, contact the human resources department at your employer and ask if there's a paid parental leave policy for adoptive parents. If there isn't, explain why it's so important. Listening to some young children speak, you would think they were in a managerial role, rather than that of a son, daughter or friend.
All children have to learn to compromise, but it is extra hard for some children who have a natural tendency to tell others what to do or take on a "leadership role," to put it nicely. In a way, it's wonderful that these children can ask for what they want, be assertive and speak up. They just need a little help to turn their demands and commands into requests and suggestions.
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I admit that for a while, I almost dreaded drawing with my toddler. He would only draw if I drew too, and he insisted on telling me what to draw and what colors to use. It was not the cozy arts and crafts time I had always pictured. If your child starts to micromanage how you're playing together, they may need a reminder of which part of the game or activity is in their control. It may seem cute or harmless when it's just the two of you, but your child is learning how to play and interact.
Gently guiding them toward being less bossy will help them in later social situations.
Calling your child "bossy" might lead to feelings of shame, but you can certainly explain that they don't need to try to control everyone else. Try to put a positive spin on it, saying something like, "Isn't it a relief that you only have to be in charge of yourself? If you find yourself getting annoyed while your child repeatedly tells you what to do while playing, tell them, gently, that you're not having fun. Children can sense when we're frustrated or annoyed, but they may have no idea why.
Explain that you have a lot more fun playing together when they're not telling you what to do. Ask them if they would have fun if you told them where to put every Lego brick. Sometimes just bringing your child's awareness to the behavior is enough to stop it, especially if you've had conversations about the behavior in the past. If you've discussed bossiness with your child many times, they likely only need a quick reminder.
Bring their attention to the fact that they're ordering you around, in as neutral a tone as you can, and see if they can change course. If you notice your child ordering around a friend or sibling, remind them that they each get to make their own choice. Alternatively, you can direct your commentary toward the other child, reminding them that they have a say too.
Give your child a chance to play the boss.
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Then reverse the roles and let them experience the role of being told what to do. Role-playing is a great way for children to try out different situations and see what it feels like to be in the other's shoes. Take 20 minutes every day and let your child decide what you play together. Even a short time of getting to be in charge of what and how you're playing can satisfy your child's need for control.
It takes so much practice for children to learn how to ask for what they want in a kind and respectful way. They likely do not intend to be rude by demanding, "I want milk! While it's often best to let your child handle conflicts and social situations on their own, you can offer commentary from the sidelines. If your child is bossing around a sibling or friend, remind them that they can make suggestions, but the other child has a say too. If your child is the oldest or an only child, make sure they have the opportunity to play with older children as well.
Playing with an older child can automatically reverse the roles so that your child experiences what it's like to be the little one, the one being bossed around. Of course, not all older children are assertive or will take on a leadership role, but experiencing play with different social dynamics will help your child figure out how to play successfully in a variety of situations. It's possible to guide your child toward a more effective way of interacting with people, without labeling them as "bossy" or making them feel ashamed.
With a little help from you, your child can harness their assertiveness and leadership skills and learn to ask for what they want without alienating the people around them. I have, by all accounts, the perfect angel baby. Not only does she look exactly like one of the cherubs you see painted on the walls of the Sistine chapel, but for the most part she acts like one too. She is an immensely happy baby who will stare people down beaming until they smile back at her. She loves to be around people and is more social than I am.
She eats just about anything you put in front of her. She has slept at least eight consecutive hours a night since she was 8 weeks old. And as long as she is occupied with something interesting, she is pretty easygoing. People love to tell me this; not a week goes by that I don't hear it. And, to be honest, I don't fully understand the point in noting it. Maybe it is just conversation filler, one of those things you say to take up space. Maybe it is intended as a compliment to her or somehow to me.
Maybe it is a spontaneous statement of marvel over her generally easygoing personality. I don't know. Though I know that I have it better than some maybe even most when it comes to challenging infants, I still find my angel baby—and mothering her—extremely challenging. I have frequently described motherhood as both the greatest thing I have ever done and the absolute most difficult thing I have ever done. I struggle every single day to love and care for my daughter, more often than not to the point of tears.
Being told I have an easy baby invalidates those feelings. It makes me feel weak for struggling at all. It makes me feel like I'm just being dramatic. It makes me second-guess my struggle or try to brush it under the rug and "suck it up. If she is so easy, I shouldn't be so frustrated or shouldn't be counting down the seconds until bedtime. If she is so easy, I can't ask my husband for more support because I really shouldn't need it.
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And the fact that I do is a sign to me that I'm inadequate and a sign to him that I'm overreacting. It's not a valid struggle.
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Parenting is hard. No matter what kind of baby you have and why is there really any need to rank them anyway? Maybe someday when I have the experience of raising other children, I'll look back on this time and reminisce about how easy I had it. But right now, I don't feel that way.
I constantly feel like a mess and being told I'm so lucky to have such an easy baby when I'm struggling which is basically always only piles on. So next time you think about remarking on how "easy" someone's child is, remember there is a lot that happens behind closed doors you don't actually see. And while she may seem like the perfect little baby, a lot of actual blood, sweat and tears, go into nurturing her. Things always seem easier when you're not the one chasing them around the bathroom at the bridal shower while they smear poop all over the floor and all over their pretty party dress which you didn't bother to bring a backup for because who could have foreseen having to change the baby on the bathroom floor of a popular country club because they didn't have a changing table and yelled at you when you tried to change her on the bench in the hall.
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