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The Bossy Threes

I knew this would happen. The day I posted about allowing my kids to say no to me we started a new phase. I like to call it the “I Do What I Want” phase. Or the “Bossy Threes.” Or maybe just the “Now Mom Is Really Pulling Her Hair Out” phase. It goes something like this:

Me: Micah, that was ugly to your sister. Please go sit on your timeout stool.
Micah: No! I won’t go!
Me: Yes, you will. Go ahead and sit on your timeout stool.
Micah: No, I won’t do what you say!
Me: I can carry you then.
Micah, as I carry him: Well, I will just get up. I will get up before the timer beeps.
Me: That will mean big trouble, and I will add another minute if you get up.
Micah: Well, I will just do it, and I won’t sit down!

On and on and on. It seemed like the Terrible Twos were about helping my child obey – he screamed no, there was a consequence, and then I helped him do what I asked. (Read: he obeyed, with my help if necessary.) These Bossy Threes seem to be about control. Not only does he think the world revolves around him, but he wants to control everything in sight. Including me. This gets very trying, and honestly, it makes me want to stiffen my neck. No, you can’t control me, and you can’t get me to do what you want, and you will obey, because I WILL WIN THIS BATTLE!

Oh my. Looks like I need my own timeout. When I lose my temper, I can guarantee one thing. He does have control of the situation, and I totally give it to him. If we’re in a battle of control, I want to make sure that I am showing exactly what self-control looks like. I want to be even keeled, not raising my voice or allowing the emotions of a three year old to get the best of the emotions of a twenty-seven year old. I can’t expect him to show any self-control if he never has an example of it when my emotions get riled up.

I realized yesterday as I helped him stay in his timeout that I needed a strategy. So last night Davy and I strategized. This is what we came up with:

1. We need a united base. It’s one thing to have me say, “Micah, it is not ok to talk to mommy in that voice.” But it’s a whole new level for Daddy to say, “Micah, you cannot talk to mommy like that. You need to respect her.” When we have a united base, Micah learns he cannot play both sides, and we are more consistent in our consequences. I’m beyond blessed to have a husband who wants to be partners in discipline. Getting on the same page with the other authorities in my children’s lives is so important.

2. We need a game plan. Last night we talked through a typical defiance scenario. It’s so hard not to lose my temper in the middle of that, so we came up with a step by step process that we’ll go through when this attitude surfaces. I won’t go into detail on this because our process will be completely different from any other parent’s process, simply because each child is different. We came up with a play by play so that we have an outline to follow in the heat of the moment. It’s so much easier to say, “that tone of voice is disrespectful. Being disrespectful means you have to have a timeout” when that’s the next step in the play. It’s way easier than trying to decide if a given action/attitude deserves a consequence and what that consequence will be in the heat of the moment.

3. We need a shift in perspective. If I look at every day as a battle, I will come to each emotional outburst with all of my weapons ready. I will view it in terms of winning or losing, and for the *dramatic pause* sake of my child’s ability to function properly in his future, I will blindly plough ahead to win, disregarding my son’s feelings, the learning moment, and whatever example I am trying to set with my own life. I need to view these Bossy Threes as an opportunity. What better time to teach him about obeying the right kind of authority, about learning to control himself but not others, and about not being manipulative?

4. We need to realize that we’re accountable to God. Yes, we’re accountable to raise our kids right, but I’m talking about being accountable for our own actions. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we think that it’s ok to do whatever it takes to get our kids to obey. Whether subconsciously or consciously, we resort to raising our voices, manipulating, or doing something we otherwise would feel is inappropriate behavior. Just because our kids are small doesn’t mean we can compromise our character to get them to obey.

When Micah tells me no in a way that is inappropriate and disrespectful, he needs to have a consequence. We want our kids to learn to say no when it is right and ok to say no, but we also want our kids to be able to obey. As Christians, we have to learn to obey God wholly and immediately, not be wishy washy, rebellious, or obey when it is convenient for us. It’s a delicate balance, and we’re kind of slogging our way through it. I tell Micah often that waiting to obey or only obeying after fighting about it is still disobedience, and disobedience always comes with a consequence. As we learn together, I have to be willing to allow God to convict me about disobedience and my urge to control as well. And I’m finding that often, as I yield to His guidance, my interactions with Micah over obedience are more infused with grace and love. Good thing God is willing to show me what to do and not leave me to my own devices!

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