From the time Mason was just 18 months old, I started seeing indications that he was going to do things his way and sometimes his way was any way that was not my way. I put my thinking cap on because I wanted to parent him in such a way that would shape a strong sense of right and wrong with appropriate consequences but would not break his very sweet, albeit strong, spirit. Through much consultation with parents, grandparents, close friends and lots of reading, I found it would be critical that everything we do with him is clear, certain and immediate. That means that even at the very young age of 3, he had to make choices.
One brisk fall morning when it was time to get dressed, Mason took the clothes I picked out for him to my husband Dave to help him dress. Once he was naked, he decided that he didn't want to get dressed, he wanted to be naked. Dave tried insisting but that was fruitless. After listening to Dave get more and more frustrated and Mason enjoying the frustrating exchange, I calmly addressed Mason and let him know that I would be ready to leave in 15 minutes. My soft voice easily broke through their exchange. I told him that he needed to be dressed or travel through our day together naked. I also advised him that as a special favor, just this one time, I would have his clothes in a paper bag to take with us in case he changed his mind. Nope, he didn't want to get dressed.
15 minutes later, brown paper bag in hand, my purse and car keys, we were on our way. He was a little perplexed at first (as was Dave. I don't think he really believed me!) and then he was really not happy. Here is the true telling of a strong willed child. As unhappy as he was, he was still not willing to get dressed. All the way down the stairs, down the drive way, across the street and into the gravel lot where the car was parked, he still was not getting dressed. As he was climbing into his car seat, crumbs in the seat and all, he scratched his leg and began to cry with more vigor than ever. I even more quietly said, "See, if you had your pants on you wouldn't have scraped your leg. And if you had your shoes on, the rocks wouldn't have hurt your feet." After strapping him into his seat naked, he asked me to please help him dress. I agreed and we were on our way.
The really nice part of this story is that I very lovingly helped him dress, I wiped his nose, and we kissed and hugged and had a wonderful day of grocery shopping and running errands. To preserve our family history and watch the value of appreciation, we took pictures. I have no doubt that in about 13 years; these pictures will be worth more to us as parents and exponentially more to a 16 year old boy beginning to court and date girls. For now, we continue to say what we mean and mean what we say. We don’t shout and we don’t argue, we simply ask for what we want, let it be known what we expect and love and nourish every step of the way.