Parenting Survival Handbook – Chapter 5 – War of the Wills

Your new bundle of joy learns quick – so you had better wise up.

Fight through the grey mist that only sleep deprivation can induce, because your baby is a criminal genius.

It really doesn’t take long for them to figure out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting what they want. When they find the magic formula, they show no mercy – they go in for the kill.

They don’t see your red-rimmed eyes, unironed and baby-sick stained t-shirt and mental fugue. They see potential for opportunity. If they could figure out finance, they would make a killing on the stock market, such is their single-mindedness toward their goal.

That goal differs. One day it might be an extra drink. It could be a packet of sweets within the hour. Chances are though, that they’ll be using the vast array of tools at their disposal. Those tools have been tried and tested so success is a sure-fire thing.

What this comes down to – is a battle of wills.

A battle that I have lost repeatedly.



My son is now eighteen months old. He boasts the motor skills of a gymnast and can climb any piece of furniture he claps his eyes on. He also drinks like a student when his grant has cleared. I’ve seen him chug a sugar-free Fruit Shoot quicker than it takes me to hand it to him.

Now I’m trying to teach him how to be a decent human being, much like we all do/will do. Me and my wife never miss a trick when it comes to ensuring he minds his P’s and Q’s. So whenever we give him something, we say to him, “ta?”

Rudimentary manners. We know he can say it, yet he simply refuses. This has been going on for a few months now, and he hasn’t done it once.

Scratch that. The little criminal says it whenever he doesn’t need to. He’ll be walking over to his numbered blocks and chirp out a lackadaisical “ta” within our earshot. Reminding us that he can say it, but he’ll do it on his terms.

So we become more adamant every time we hand him something. I look into his eyes, I draw my face near his, my voice strains higher in a vain attempt to give my chords the friendly lilt that lures my son into reciprocating my word.

He simply looks at me, wraps his adorable hands around the bottle and pulls.

So I pull back.

He pulls harder and uses one of his weapons. Perhaps his most efficient weapon.

Every parent will know of it. It strikes fear into anyone who has had the displeasure of hearing it.

It is the baby drawl, and repent those who have not yet had it unleashed upon them.

It can break conversation, concentration and the fiercest of wills.

My son will emit this sound, akin to if power tools were to make love violently. It doesn’t waver, it doesn’t dim.

What it does instead, is grinds its way past your ear drums, brutally stomps its way up into your brain where it will begin to make its home. This location in your brain is your decision-making part, and the noise will proceed to make its presence felt by leaning its weight onto your thought processors until you can’t bear it anymore.

Your brain will scream at you to just give in, it’s much easier that way, at least you can stop this wretched cacophony.

Your will, the one that is now becoming drowned out, pipes up, reminding you that if you give in, your child will never learn if you give into their requests.

By this time, your child has made a remix of the drawl. It now comes complete with tears and sobs, and it’s the surefire number one Billboard smash. It’s the ultimate earworm, you’ll certainly never forget it.

You crumple, and give in. Instantly, your child transforms into the cherub you adore once more, chugging away on their trophy, and giving you a look that says “don’t try that again rookie.”

The silence though, the blessed silence.

I’ve been in this war now for months, and the battle scars are consigned to my brain, but they are there. At times you will find your will is stronger, but then your partner’s isn’t. They’ll be on the phone or trying to sleep or concentrate.

You see? Your child drives a wedge deep, picking their moment like the professional they are.

Only last week, my son refused to go to sleep, and instead watched a late night film with us, taking up two thirds of the couch with their impossibly tiny body, while my wife and I sat squashed on the couch at either end, like disgruntled bookends.

It sounds like we are soft, but believe me, we haven’t been. We have made stands, dug trenches and sat in for the long haul.

Three hours later, after repeated attempts at transporting your child to the land of nod, the best of us will crack.

It’s 2am, you have slept for an hour. You have then sat up and cradled them for another hour and a half, while your eyelids do their own version of a slut-drop. All the while, your child looks at you with those beautiful eyes. Eyes that are wide open and full of mischievous wonder.

Even in the daytime, your kid will want a packet of crisps and it’s half an hour away from dinner time. You will refuse, and occasionally, you can use your tactics to score a victory.

The problem is, it’s only a battle, there’s still a war to win. You might have distracted him with the singing rabbit this time, but then it comes too dinner time and he refuses to eat a bite, despite being hungry. He wants his videos, and won’t eat without them. We don’t want him to be reliant on this, so refuse. Half an hour later, concerned that he isn’t eating, we put the videos on and lo and behold, he starts ramming down food like it’s going out of fashion.

So, you see, every day there will be pivotal moments that can make or break you. Your friends and family will recount how they broke bad habits of their kids, and look at you like you’re weak because you haven’t had the stones to do it yourself.

Ignore those smug morons.

You will eventually get there, but it really is a slog. Don’t beat down on yourself for the fact your child is sometimes a little brat and misbehaves. You need every ounce of mental fortitude to keep getting up off the canvas, so don’t do it to yourself.

You’ll get there, and there’ll be plenty of positives along the way to ensure you have the stamina for what challenges your kid brings.

Just don’t kid yourself that you’re winning – your baby holds the belt, and has no plans to vacate it.

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