Gratitude and Silver Linings

My youngest son is 7, and nearly two years ago he was demoted from being the “baby” of the family, not only by age and self-proclamation, but also by the addition of a soon-to-be new step-sister, who is 4, and she is as tenacious as they come. He hasn’t been particularly pleased about having a spirited girl figure in the house who is younger than he, but who is also unwilling to respect him as an authority figure, which he absolutely sees himself as, over her. She matches his own tenacity and spirit and even though they butt heads now, I know one day he’ll be the one who is her biggest cheerleader.

He is astonishingly intelligent, very articulate, and his opinion of his place in life can occasionally border on grandiose or egotistical. He’s social and friendly, but makes sure everyone knows his opinion, and that his opinion is unaffected by anyone else’s opinion, and any argument otherwise becomes a challenge. His personality is quite the opposite of mine for the most part, and I try to give him a voice in things because he IS the youngest, and birth order can affect a great deal of your adult personality. Youngest kids who grow up feeling overshadowed by siblings often cause the most trouble, and I believe it is because they feel like they don’t have a voice in life. So, I’ve always tried to make him feel like being the youngest meant nothing more than age by letting him have a vote wherever possible.

The thing is, the result of all of this is that when he feels he is right he will argue until you agree with him, and refusal to argue results in some pretty obnoxious behavior until you agree to argue. When you finally do argue he will not back down until you agree with him and recently his temper has been a pretty big issue on a few occasions. I am a pattern person – when I notice even the tiniest pattern, I start paying attention to it and mentally observe until I am sure everything is going smoothly and on the right path.

So, I’ve been working on making sure that our disagreements don’t turn into the dramatic altercations that he seems to push for sometimes, which I believe is a result of his attempt to establish his voice. Last night we had a big breakthrough in this issue, where he, for the first time since he’s started this challenging my terms, backed down willingly and smoothly before it got too over the top. I gave him some options, as I always do, which usually include to either be respectful and compliant with my requests of him or lose his favorite privilege for a period of time that fits the level of disrespectful behavior that has occurred. In every other time we’ve had this type of challenge, he has seemed to either not believe or not care that the loss of privilege would occur and continued to escalate the slightest disagreement until it was outrageous. Last night he chose to go to bed, and be respectful of my requests.

I, of course, was excited about this breakthrough, but the interaction with him exhausted me mentally, depleted my energy, and added to my already overwhelming plate of life’s things for which  I’ll spare everyone the details, but I will say that it was only today that I realized how grateful I was for the lessons this child’s fiery personality and recent challenges have presented me with, and how grateful I was to both Judy Umlas and the Center for Grateful Leadership for putting me in a mindset to BE grateful for these lessons.

It was a conversation with Judy and her words to me that put everything into perspective. I was having a difficult time writing about gratitude, and grateful parenting when in the midst of a pattern of child behaviors that my research and experience have given me a reason to have some concern. And in hindsight, I should have known to go to Judy, because of course, the Guru of Grateful Leadership would have sound advice in a challenging situation that is actually solved using the 7 Principles of Acknowledgment, but it wasn’t until I opened up to her about this situation that  I realized how grateful I should be for this opportunity in parenting to produce a kind and grateful child that becomes a kind and grateful adult, using lessons I have learned by being involved with the Center for Grateful Leadership. She encouraged me not to stress over the article, or worry about getting it finished by our typical submit date, and to just tell about the topic and her simple words gave me the inspiration for both this particular article, and helped lift a weight that opened my eyes to what a wonderful opportunity this actually was.

Acknowledging his feelings and using the Seven Principles of Acknowledgement is exactly what is needed in this situation. So for that, I am beyond grateful, and grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge Judy and what her message encompasses because I would not have come to the answer to this problem without her.