For the past year or so, Ethan refuses to sleep in his bed. He would rather curl up like a puppy in front of our bedroom door: baby cheeks squished against his pudgy arms, butt propped high and proud. The boy is stubborn, but respectful. He never enters our room. He just waits, patiently, sometimes in his bed or on the staircase for all of us to settle into sleep.
His method is not perfect. One time, during a Netflix movie several hours after we had tucked him into his own bed, Thomas spotted a black bear in our yard. As soon as Thomas yelled “bear,” we heard little feet thunder down our stairs and his excited and not-sleepy-at-all voice, “Where? Where? I want to see it?”
Other times, when he is extremely tired, he’ll pass out on the staircase.
My friends tell me I’m lucky. “Aww, he’s so adorable. What a polite boy.”
Yes, I know what you’re thinking; this “polite boy” has me wrapped around his finger. When I wake in the middle of the night, I actually crack open my door hoping to see my bundle of love. I tell Thomas that we will miss his devotion when one day, he might come home from school, run into his room, and slam the door shut (which might be in three years, since Kyra just started doing this).
However, I am worried that I’m cultivating a stubborn chord in my son. (See Who’s the Alpha Now?) Our day, for instance, consists of one negotiation after another.
“Can I have juice?” he asks.
“Only after you drink a glass of milk. You know the rules, Ethan.”
This exchange (which can also be about cookies, chips, or candy) can go on all day where he would rather starve or sit in timeout than lose his battle. In order to get him to do what I want, I have to give him choices and make him believe that he’s in charge. And even then, if he doesn’t hear a choice he wants, he’s clever enough to offer his own.
Most frustrating of all, if he detects the slightest educational motivation at play, he pretends to fall asleep. Superheroes are the only angle with which I have some leverage. Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker is willing to tell me a color, letter, or number on his toy, but never for very long. However, I’m not keen on encouraging Superhero play since I caught Ethan nudging a spider with his toe. “Look Mommee. Spider bite me. I Spiderman now?”
Meanwhile, Kyra thrives on academic challenges. Lately, she would rather practice writing sentences than watch a movie with the family. At a restaurant, on her own initiation, she entertains herself with iPhone educational apps or workbooks throughout our meal. Thomas and I actually encourage her to “put it away,” because we don’t want people to think that we are “Tiger Parents.”
My friends tell me not to worry. They say I’m only seeing the negative aspects of a stubborn child. The positives of a stubborn personality are leadership, confidence, toughness, an ability to focus which boosts learning. As it turns out, I’ve already implemented some of these recommendations on how to handle stubborn kids:
How do you handle your stubborn child?