Living with Giant Dictators


“perspective” “point of view” “someone else’s shoes” “childhood” “memories” “growth” “knowledge” “patience”

The line above just represents thoughts and feelings that go through my mind as I talk about this subject, parenting.

The last time I wrote was a while ago, and the last time I wrote about parenting “he’s just another person” was even a longer while ago. I guess to some degree I had lots happening in the parenting space but no clear thoughts to share. My little boy is almost two and a half years old. Since the last time I wrote, he moved houses (with us, his parents), he got a baby sister (3 months old now) and he started kindergarten a few days a week. Minor changes in the life of a toddler…. NOT!

Most recently I started to feel like I am losing the fun in parenting. I always wanted to be a parent because I thought I would make a great father, but most recently I feel so unqualified and my son has to pay the price. I always resented the term “terrible twos” I still don’t subscribe to it, but it is fair to say I have been experiencing a number of terrible moments with my boy, Power struggle occupies the top of the list. (Why can’t he just do as he’s told?!)

Awakening 1: I started asking myself, “how would it feel?” if I woke up every morning to a house run by Giants, at least five times my size! They control all the resources in the house, they make all the decisions to be made and they dictate every aspect of my life. …. SCARY isn’t it!!! well sometimes these Giants are peaceful and tame but you can never tell when they turn their faces, they are very unpredictable, one moment I am asked to go play with my toys and the next moment I am asked to sit and eat, but then if I am hungry later I am not allowed to eat and I have to brush my teeth and go to bed.  There is of course the occasional getting strapped into a moving vehicle for an unpredictable length of time with a surprise destination. sometimes the destination is small people’s’ heaven where all the giants gather together in a corner busy with each other while I get to play and run about, but then that almost always ends abruptly and I have to get strapped again in that same vehicle. Other times the destination is like a maze full of Giants running a round pushing cool 4 wheeler baskets, but if I try to push it in the same way I get told off. They get to pick stuff and throw them in the basket but I am always asked not to do the same with the stuff I pick. The list could go on.

Awakening 2: I remembered. I was a child once. A very aware child. At a very young age I judged my parents and all other adults around me, including but not limited to, teachers, uncles and aunties. I had certain opinions about certain things they said or did, but my overall observation was that they are CLUELESS! They have no idea what I want, how I feel about what they say or do, and my perception was that they didn’t even care! (I am almost thankful my parents won’t get to read this, because I am pretty sure they believed otherwise)

Awakening 2 continues: I didn’t just remember the adults around me, their actions and how I felt about them. I REMEMBERED ME!!

I remembered how I tossed in bed forever every night trying to find a comfortable position to sleep. I remembered how much fun it was to throw stuff over the roof, cut paper into confetti and throw it out of the window. I remembered how enjoyable it was to push and swing my chair back and forth while leaning on the dining table, I remembered how enjoyable it was to bite on my pencil or chew my eraser. I remembered so much of what I enjoyed and was frowned upon by at the time “GIANTS”, and now I am the Giant!!

Since I went through these two awakenings I started to act differently. I started treating my little boy as close as possible to how I remember I wanted to be treated, while at the same time offer the same level of education and guidance I feel compelled to offer as a farther. The journey is only just starting but over a short few weeks, there is certainly some progress and the terrible moments are reducing significantly.

Thanks for reading, please share your thoughts and till I see you again in another blog, have a lovely time.

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12 thoughts on “Living with Giant Dictators

  1. You touch on a few good points – I have also made a parallel in the past between parenting and running a dictatorship. Basically, as a dictator, you set up the boundaries around them (“cage”) but make sure it’s big enough for them not to notice they’re caged. The best way to do that I think is to a) have age-appropriate rules/expectations b) consistency and c) give them choice within the boundaries. The problem arises when they absolutely refuse the rules, and then I’m stuck questioning myself (“was this expectation appropriate?”, “am I being too strict/unrealistic?”) or ending up in a power struggle (trying to force-fit him in his high chair with him kicking and screaming comes to mind!). Then comes the guilt-trip and ending up writing/reading posts such as yours….!

    A few things that I found to work well in the 2-3 year old year:
    – reverse psychology: instead of “eat your apple”, I just start eating apple without saying anything until he says he wants some.
    – staying calm in a kind of “nothing triggers me approach”: if I could reach the levels of serenity of buddhist monks I think my parenting would be greatly improved. Sadly, i’m not there yet although the calmer I stay and refuse to enter the game of him trying to bug me the better it goes!
    – trying to be less intense about things and taking them less seriously: after all, most of what they do in this age-range is just a phase that passes so if my son bit someone at school, (sadly a true story) I have to remember that doesn’t make him a “mean” person for life and likewise is not an absolute value judgement of my parenting. (I hope)

    As I write this, I realize how manupulative we are as parents (reverse psychology – come on!) …but at the same time we don’t want all of our time with kids to be spent manipulating but rather coming from a sincere place. I guess the manipulative strategies come in when you are seeing where an interaction if going at a particular point in time and trying to avoid the escalation to power struggle.

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    1. Thanks Sigrid for the comment that doesn’t just offer comfort to know that other parents can relate but also for the fact that it offers great pointers for consideration as we go about this journey.

      on your “reverse psychology” comment. I of course applaud you for being self critical as it is important to be aware of motives to a given approach in parenting. yet at the same time I wouldn’t call this manipulation. in the example you gave you allow him to be curious about what you are doing, to desire it and think “I want some” as well as to take action and make a decision to ask for a piece and eat it. (any child psychologist would probably call me out on my ignorant analysis above) but in my view this offers him a lot more opportunities for growth and development compared to if you told him to eat an apple and the only options for him is to agree and submit “obedient boy” or assert himself and say no “rebel”.

      one thing that I tried recently and it seem to be working better is to invite him to do something and accept no for an answer. I inform him of the consequences of No if there are any and hold firm when time comes. in the last couple of days here is what happened

      1) bed time, we bathed, brushed teeth and in a fresh diaper but he doesn’t want to wear his PG. “No, Zuzu doesn’t need a PG” he says, so I said “alright, wanna get a story for baba to read to you?” and half way through the story he goes “Zuzu is cold, must wear a PGs”

      2)Dinner time he decided to walk away from his plate without finishing his food, “Zuzu, would you like to eat some more?”, “No” he answered, so I informed him that he needs to say I am done baba thank you. before he leaves and that if he doesn’t want to finish his food there won’t be food later. that same night he asked for food just as we are done with bed routine and ready to sleep. I said “dinner time is over, it is bed time now. we will eat breakfast in the morning, next time you have to finish your food so you are not hungry later”

      not sure if that is good parenting but there is certainly a lot less power struggle lately. and we continue to learn.

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  2. Love your point of view…esp since you’re able to bring us down to their height and see it from their point of view. Virtues parenting has also some very helpful tips in allowing us to parent but at the same time allowing our little midgets space to think, express and explore:)
    Good luck! To all of us!!

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    1. Thanks Lani, the Spiritual parenting workshop has always been a great reference for Ming and I as we go through this journey. I wonder if the program runs in NZ.

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  3. Kia ora, this makes me want to write my own blog! One thing that I do differently I guess is always give the children options so that they are in control. “Would you like to go to bed now or, have a story in bed?”. Either way, you’re still getting them to go to bed. “Would you like to sit in the trolley at the supermarket, or would you like to walk next to me and not touch anything?”. Often we know the option that they are going to choose, but they feel empowered when they get there themselves.

    Being a parent is lots of fun if the kids are happy, and i think that they are happy if they think they are in control. 🙂

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    1. Legend phrase Andrew “Being a parent is lots of fun if the kids are happy, and i think that they are happy if they think they are in control.”

      also them being in control and making decision is a huge component of their growth and development.

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