Ask any parent of a spirited, energetic, strong-willed child what their biggest struggle is, and they will most likely respond the same way I do: “I need to teach my girl to respect boundaries and obey, but do it in a way I won’t be crushing her independent spirit.” I adore my girl’s personality and the fact that she’s not a pushover, but, wow, she’s a tough one to parent and set limits with because she truly believes she can do it all on her own, until she can’t and frustration (read “wild tantrums”) sets in.
Not only is it hard to set limits with a spirited child, it’s also a challenge to teach them proper etiquette and manners because they seriously don’t want to be told what to do. The obvious is to lead by example and hope they will follow cue, but my girl is always absorbed in her non-stop babbling, playing and movement that she just doesn’t pause much to let in the needed “Please” or “Thank you.”
On top of it all, she was born into the Latino culture which is ultra conscious of manners and proper etiquette as a sign of class and education. My mom swears and brags that when I was a toddler she could take me to the fanciest restaurant and I would sit still and quietly and not even make a mess or a fuss. She honestly brags about this as an accomplishment. Then I turn and look at my girl sitting at the dinner table with her legs wide open, one knee banging on the edge, her fingers full of the ketchup which will go straight into her mouth for a licking. Not quite the same scene.
Since modeling the behavior and asking or demanding her to act with proper manners aren’t really working as strategies, I’ve decided to collect a series of children’s books that teach the manners I so desperately want her to learn – and the ones that annoy me the most!
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Check out the forthcoming book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.
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