Respect Within Reason: A Parental Dilemma

Respect is a complicated concept to grasp, even for adults.

So, when it comes to our children and teaching them to give respect while also teaching ourselves to respect their wishes in turn, that can be a hard task.

One of the concepts I’m dealing with is learning when my child means what she says or is what she just said just words and attention seeking behavior. Although only two years old my daughter is fiercely independent and strong-willed. She wants to do things herself and is determined. As proud as I am of this can-do attitude it can also be incredibly frightening.

One day she said “Mommy, I find kitty” with a huge smile on her face. She ran to the kitchen cabinet, pulled out the bag of cat treats and ran straight for the stairs. Our cat likes to nap in the master bedroom.

“Mommy open gate please,” she says as she stands at the bottom of the stairs clutching the treat bag with both hands. “Gate open, Mommy. Please, gate open”. The mom side of me screamed out inside of me to not open the gate due to safety reasons. But, it’s hard for me to deny her this simple request when, after all, she asked so politely. In the end, I decided to respect her words. (She is starting to realize her words have meaning and she’s busy figuring out how to use them accordingly.)

As she starts to climb up the stairs I follow her a close step or two behind.  Suddenly, she turns around pleading in her littlest voice, “No, mommy, no! Stay! I find kitty.”

I immediately begin thinking to myself, Going up the stairs. By herself! Well, that’s not happening. (I’m fighting my heart and mind at this moment to respect what she wants to do while still being able to keep her safe?) At this point, we are already two-thirds of the way up the stairs. I say, “Baby, OK. I’ll stay here,” and I let her continue up the last few stairs and around the corner without me. (Mommy note: I can still hear her this entire time).

After she enters my bedroom I creep up the rest of the way and I hide behind a piece of furniture with a direct line of sight to her location. She proceeds to open up the treat bag. “Here kitty, treat,” she calls as she places a few pieces on the floor. Meanwhile, I have this vision of the whole bag of treats being eagerly dumped out. But they weren’t. Our cat finished off his treats then looked to her for more. She gave him a few more and then she says, “You all done.”

That night, in her two-year-old way, she told her dad all about giving kitty treats. A simple task. Yet, she was so filled with confidence by her little accomplishment. And all because I had made the correct decision to respect those worded requests from my child.

She knew what she wanted to do — and she went for it!

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