I had an inner philosophical parenting crisis with myself this morning. Sometimes I think Aislyn asks me for a hug to avoid a task, so I tell her first the task, then the hug.
First-then is an old behavior management strategy. And normally it works fairly well.
But I didn’t like doing it in this case, and I will tell you why.
I don’t like making hugs: my affection, my love, conditional. Even as I did it, I knew I was making a big mistake.
But all of my old training made me feel like I had to follow through with the expectation. So I did. Through all of the crying and bargaining and excuses, I stood my ground until finally, she washed her hands.
For a while after that I sat there in silence, thinking about what I had done, and then I said, “Aislyn, I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to do anything for a hug. Hugs are free.”
I don’t know if she understood. She just looked at me and said, “I love you, Mama.”
Maybe she’s totally scamming me. Who cares? Unconditional love is more important than “winning” a power struggle with your six-year-old.