Yesterday was haircut day here! Until about a year ago I always did haircuts for all of the kids, but then the boys started getting haircuts done by their older siblings – with the haircutting machines it’s not very complicated. Then I was only left every couple of months with haircuts for the girls, and when dd15 decided she was ready for a style change, she switched to a professional stylist (I wasn’t insulted!) and I was down to demonstrating my haircutting abilities for just two of the girls.
Anyway, yesterday I did haircuts for all four boys who are home and have enough hair to cut (ds11, ds8, ds4, ds3), and they all look so neat now! It was the first time in quite a while that I’ve had the chance, and I enjoyed the one on one time with each child – I often marvel at how much we can emotionally nourish a child by really giving them our full, undivided attention for even five minutes.
As I was doing the haircuts and then showers, I thought about how critical it is that parents try to understand why a child is acting as he does so that they can respond with understanding instead of frustration to issues that will come up a number of times a day that push parental buttons. By making the effort to see where a child is coming from, it will help a parent stay on an even keel.
Example: when ds3 kept squirming as I tried to cut the hair by his neck, of course I would have liked to have finished the haircut right then and there! That would have seemingly been the efficient thing to do. However, efficiency and effectiveness aren’t the same thing, and with personal interactions, effectiveness is the important value. I realized ds3 was feeling ticklish and the sensation of the electric haircutting machine near his neck felt strange to him. Paying attention to him meant not insisting on finishing right then (I’ll use scissors in a couple of days to even up the back). And when he was ready to get out of the shower less than sixty seconds after he got in, and his hair hadn’t yet been washed, I understood that taking a shower may not be a big deal for us but to a little person used to taking baths, it can be an intimidating experience. (Ds3 told me earnestly when he got out “That was a scary shower!”)
When my kids were much younger, I wouldn’t have been able to easily step away from my own idea of how things should have progressed, and would have insisted on finishing the haircut or shower regardless. I would have seen it as a situation in which I needed to show my child he had to listen to me, so that I wouldn’t turn into a doormat. And as normal as that is, I would have been totally wrong – it would have been manipulative and disrespectful.
It is so, so easy to get involved in taking care of all that needs to be done, and forget to respect the child involved. I’ve seen this even with sentiments that seem to be noble – parents want to give their child a particular kind of experience that they perceive to be valuable, and get so caught up in it that they continue to insist on it even when the child is miserable. Sometimes there’s a fear of not being able to accomplish what we need to do, that we don’t have time to slow down and pay attention to what is going on with each child; we have things that have got to get done!
But it’s a false efficiency – so many times power struggles, tantrums, and negative interactions can be avoided completely by taking the time to connect with your child when interacting with him, and to pay attention to the feedback that he is giving you. This isn’t the same as a parent negating his own needs and letting a child dictate what the outcome of a situation should be regardless of parental preference. True parenting power is when a parent interacts with a child from a position of true strength, not by imposing his will, but being willing to be flexible and find ways to resolve the situation so that all parties are satisfied and left feeling loved and respected.