Personality clashes between parents and children have been around since the only hotly-debated options for Halloween costumes were ‘hunter’ or ‘gatherer,’ but you may have been expecting that your and Baby’s first major disagreement wouldn’t happen until he has to start thinking about impressing the coolest kids in kindergarten, or at least until he was ready to start expressing his disagreement in words. He came into the world with a personality all his own, though, and you’ve probably already found that there are things the two of you have a difference of opinion about, even if he has had to tell you so using pointing, spitting things out, or tears instead of a well-reasoned argument.
What do I do when Baby and I disagree?
Disagreements with Baby can be tricky because while he definitely has his own point of view, he is also a baby, and some of his objections might not be quite as valid as he believes. He may think you’re being horrendously unfair by always keeping the shiny, jangly toy away from him, after all, but that doesn’t mean they actually has a right to you car keys.
On the other hand, though, while Baby’s objection to spinach might be something you’ve got very good reasons to want to overrule, that doesn’t change the fact that turning food into a power struggle can make life difficult for years to come. On the one hand, Baby doesn’t really know whether or not he likes the way anything tastes until he has been given the chance to try it a few times. On the other hand, Baby is just as likely to have a few things he doesn’t like to eat as anyone else, and there’s nothing wrong with respecting those preferences as long as his likes and dislikes don’t start wiping out entire sections of the food pyramid, like vegetables.
This type of objection also goes for activities – maybe you’re a bookworm, say, or an avid hiker, and you’ve been excited to share this passion with Baby for longer than he has been alive. If Baby doesn’t seem to be too enthusiastic about staying still for story time, or thinks too much time in the great outdoors just isn’t that great, there’s a good chance that he just needs a bit more time to learn to appreciate your favorite activities. On the other hand, though, forcing it can just make him dig in his heels against it, so it’s important to know when to take a step back, give Baby a break from the activity he isn’t enjoying much now, and look for something new the two of you can enjoy together for a while, until he is a little older, and might be ready to try again.
The third type of disagreement you and Baby might be having is the kind that can be one of the most frustrating because, chances are, it’s an argument you’re going to lose. If, say, Baby just isn’t interested in cuddling as often as you’d like, especially as he grows up a little and gets more and more mobile, it’s generally best to let him have his way. Maybe Baby is ready for his own sleeping space a little sooner than you’re ready to start moving that crib down the hall to his room, or he would rather explore than snuggle up with you in the living room after dinner. It’s not a rejection of you, it’s just his independent spirit showing. On the other hand, Baby might be interested in sticking close to you even when you’d like a moment without another body touching yours. While it’s important to protect your own peace of mind and know when it’s time to pass Baby off to your partner for a little while, or get him settled in a swing or playpen long enough to give yourself a moment to breathe, generally, Baby is seeking that closeness as a way to feel comfortable and secure, and as counterintuitive as it sounds, indulging that nearness can only help encourage independence in the future.
The bottom line
Many new parents find themselves surprised by how distinctive babies’ individual personalities are from a very early age, even before the babies themselves might not seem to have much self-awareness about it yet. Sometimes these differences of personality come with disagreements, and working out ways to respect Baby’s personality while dealing with these disagreements will only help smooth the way in your lifetime as parent and child.