Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime

Even Ground: Why It’s a Better Place to Be

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From where are, and where we’ve come, we are all connected, here, on level ground.

I read an article today on Elephant Journal, of which I’ve linked below. The author is a mum of a young girl, who while endeavoring to support fellow parents and children, came into her own moment of awakening recently. This gained insight not only opened her eyes, but reaffirmed much of her intention to parent gently, with respect, and in reverence of the little person in her care.

It’s not too often I come across a truly kindred spirit in the world of parenting, living with children, nonviolence, empathic connection, etc., but when I do, the smile doesn’t leave my face for days. Today, Shonnie Lavender has brought me such a smile, and my gratitude is spilling out.

Recently, with my pregnancy, the continued work on the house renovations, travel, holiday events and activities, and the general sense of such “a lot”, we’ve had more of a challenge remaining connected than is the usual flow. Life is about change, movement, growth, expansion, and experiencing. Sometimes we get caught up in the whirlwind of all of it and forget to choose our actions and reactions thoughtfully and with intent to benefit. This article speaks to this for me, as well as reaffirms the beauty and value of revering our little ones, and their incredible journey of childhood.


 

Shonnie writes –

“Mentally, it’s much easier to parent by merely replicating what we experienced as children. It’s what we know and it comes “naturally” to us. But I’m not content to do things because they’re easy. I intend to build a relationship that is mutually-respectful, no matter what. A year after I first discovered my habit of usurping my daughter’s power, my belief in my own superiority still shows up on occasion. Whenever I notice that I’ve treated my daughter’s authoritative voice as less valid than my own, I look for ways to restore the balance of power in our relationship.

 

When I wrote vows to my daughter a few weeks after she was born, I promised to take a conscious path as her mother. I committed to do what I could to allow her to stay in touch with her true self, to trust herself and to live as she was meant to live, not just the way I thought she should live.”

The rest of the article can be read here: The Surprising Parenting Insight I Gained

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In Awe of the Current

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I stand, before the Deep,
Her rhythm, my solace.
Each moment, comes next as the last.
Anticipated and satisfied.
Each inhalation unique, but known.
Arms out, receiving her breath,
Absorbing her pulse, as powerful as my own.
Each surge welcomed, as those that have come,
Their nourishing already begun.
Her voice, silent, immense
Final and continuous.
So melodic her song.
And in this connectedness, with each beat
I am, and know, I will remain.
In harmony.
In acknowledgement and appreciation, my mind bows.
I am absorbed.

And now, we begin again.

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When She’s Asleep

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We party!  No, really!!!  When she’s asleep, her Papa and I pull out all the stops and celebrate!  It usually looks a little like this,

Seriously fun!

There are many, many pictures circulating around the internet advertising, nay, taunting those of us who have not and will not likely ever capture one of these precious moments, until our kids are nearer 16.

 

Yeah right.  Not my kid.  Nope.

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So, I find it funny when people tell me they are going to miss nap number 3, then eventually nap #2 goes by the wayside… ah.

Nap #1 was a thing of beauty and wonder in our house, and it lasted a mere 3 years.

Thing is, she’s never missed a moment, and when you talk to her, you know it.  And while I think her father and I would love a few more moments to share together with just the two of us, we know that this is temporary, that she is growing exponentially, that she will sleep when she’s a teenager, and that it’s worth every moment of sharing with her, even if it means the only time it’s quiet around here is when we’re all asleep.

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I was reading some comments on a site tonight about parents and their sleep dilemmas with their children.  It was the usual.. my kid either won’t nap anymore or some other ‘not as the parent expects/wants’ scenario.

I get it.  I tried for a couple weeks to hold on to my daughter’s afternoon nap when she had everything else to do but sleep on schedule.  I’ve been there.  I battled.  I begged.  I even went so far as to be told where I could put my idea of HER being asleep while I wasn’t.  Imagine all she would miss!  Yeah.. imagine.  Nothing like watching mom plop down on a couch and stare off into space for an hour, or do the laundry and dishes.  I know, crazy exciting stuff!

Anyway, point is, I realized too late in my case, as it took my daughter asserting herself in a way that made it very clear that I was being a jerk and selfish, to get me to open my eyes and stop trying to tell her when she was to sleep, instead of granting her the same consideration I grant myself and my partner regarding our sleep needs and preferences.

I learned the value of allowing someone space to manage their own body and mind very early with my daughter.  It’s a lesson I will carry with me for the remainder of my life – it’s given me the gift of acceptance and respect on a level for others I didn’t have previously.

And here are a few little things I also learned along the way –

Some children do not want to sleep, in spite of you thinking they need to. This might seem odd, but what if you had another person telling you when to sleep? 

Coming from a mama with a little that has been more alert, aware, and absorbing from the moment of birth than any of us could imagine… Instead of “putting her down for a nap”, what about trying something a little different? Why not try watching her signals and instead of telling her what to do with them, give her credit and allow her to follow her natural rhythm

When you see her start to wear out, slow down yourself. 

When you see her becoming overwhelmed with stimulation, calm your environment and quiet your mind. Provide a conducive atmosphere for rest, and allow you and she to define what is restful to each of you, independently.

Our society has this idea that children can’t figure out how to sleep on their own… Our society would serve itself well to stop trying to force children and their patterns into those that fit an adult’s world and adult’s expectations and patterns.

She will sleep when her body tells her to, if you don’t try to manage and modify her natural patterns. And you will find that if you don’t interfere, but instead follow her lead, you also will have much more opportunity to rest and restore while she rests, instead of the battle that you will both remember.

If you are interested in the studies and thoughts related to the damage caused by those who insist their children sleep when they (the adults) deem appropriate, you can check out the following links:

Becoming as Wise as Your Baby
The Dangers of CIO
Anti CIO Community
Becoming Babywise
The Natural Child Project: Sleep
Neglect & Sleep Training, Ignoring
Refusing to Diminish, Choosing to Respond

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Trusting the Process

Being worthy of their trust, by first demonstrating our trust in them

 
A while back, I saw the following comment on a page from which I often take a few moments to share, learn, and find my inspiration.  The site is Natural Motherhood, and the FB page has continuously active conversation.One day, I came across the following request for encouragement, and it stayed with me for a while.  So often, I wish I could reach out and wrap my arms around these brave women and men, choosing to parent against the collective, and instead forging ahead in the way they know is most beneficial for their children, their family, and our world.    I wish I could step into their space, smile gently face to face, and share the quiet knowing that flourishes inside us.
Here is the thought; I hope you will journey through this with me.
“Hi, I need some advice please. My little ones are almost 3 and 15mos. We practice gentle, compassionate parenting. Lately I have been getting the, I told you so” from family members. I am having a hard time and am at a loss. My kids are both wild, rambunctious, whiney and just don’t hear me when I talk to them. We can’t take them places because of how they behave. My littler one screams and throws tantrums almost all day long…if I don’t give her exactly what she wants when she wants she loses it completely. I am just exasperated and exhausted. I’m not sure what to do and I feel like I’m failing miserably as a parent. My grandma says my parenting style has “created little brats.” It breaks my heart.”
Reading requests for help like these, my first response is to shake my head side to side, like an eraser is used.  I actually visualize an eraser sometimes, like the Mister Eraser on the show, “The Color Crew”.  Aeehghhh… I want to say.. “Neh, stop, back up, start over, scratch all that.”  I want to say, “Go to the beginning.  Start there, find your gentleness and find their eyes, then take a step forward in the process.  The forest, the trees, the entire system, we have to have water, sunlight, and roots.”  Find some dirt, and start drawing whatever comes to mind, maybe you’ll be blessed and your children will join you.

When we can see the world through our children’s eyes, from the perspective their minds can comprehend, our own eyes are opened and our understanding, compassion, wisdom, and most importantly, our grace expands exponentially. Gentle grace with ourselves and one another allows us to patiently trust the process of life as it unfolds and develops.

When we are struggling, it is most often a result of discomfort, strain, or our own emotional needs being unmet to some degree. Our children are mirrors. Step one, identify expectations and determine whether they are there out of mutual benefit and meeting of needs, or an underlying fear/concern/need for control.

The judgement of others comes, and when we let it in, it impacts us and we end up questioning ourselves. Instead, we can choose to empower ourselves by choosing to bring our mind to a place where we can see the world through our children’s viewing portal.  Instead of expectations imposed by the adult world, we see the value of being a child. Bringing yourself to their physical height, while making this choice to see through their eyes, has a profound effect, btw.

Children hear so much more than we sometimes realize, both in the words we do say and those we do not.  They “hear” us at a core and integrated level that we, as adults, have often forgotten.  Compliance and Listening are two very different concepts.

How often, as an adult, do we appreciate our day being managed extensively?  How apt are we to happily comply with constant overseeing, herding, redirection, correction, scolding, disapproval, annoyance, irritation, expectation, and the reproach of someone who sees themselves as “over” us, for whatever reason.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not much in the market for being told when to use the bathroom, what I will eat, when to get myself dressed and what to wear, how to speak, when to speak, what I should respond to because someone else thinks so, how to spend my free time, and finally, precisely when and how I am to cause myself to sleep.  It’s a cacophony of being controlled and not being good enough.

Step back.  Step out if you have to.  Change your expectations, discover what is worth appreciating and being downright in awe of, and watch how your approach and reactions follow the shift.

If your children are whining, they are not being heard by you.  Their needs are not being met in ways that they need most, or they cannot trust that you will respond reliably.  This is the purpose of whining, to be acknowledged and have our needs be addressed.

If your children are wild and rambunctious, relish their energy.  Find a way to catch their excitement and their enthusiasm, and enjoy some for yourself. The more you move, the more energy you will have. The more you laugh and squeal, the more laughter and joy your life will know.  The more you look, the more you will see.  The more you listen, the more you will take in, the greater your perspective and understanding will be.

Screams, tantrums, outbursts that are not positive, these are desperate attempts at being heard and understood.  Adults do the same, but some with a bit more refinement and calculation for effect, children act on impulse.  I love their purity of spirit.  They do what they know, what they have been shown, and whatever they have discovered is effective.  If you want your child to stop having such outbursts, then hear them and respond in a loving and fair manner BEFORE they have to resort to such efforts.

It’s a tough job, and it requires something that all of us can give, but some of us have to find and develop first.  But when we realize the difference parenting in a way that guides but doesn’t diminish, encourages curiosity without expectation of performance, and truly reveres the process and challenge that is Childhood, we end up with harmony and flow.

I will begin to write with specific example/scenario for the purpose of comparison, and to bring to real life all the concepts here.

Also something to remember… Our Little Persons are just that… they are not supposed to be small adults. The mind develops on its own schedule, and when we, with grace and wisdom, nurture those minds with acceptance, and trust the process of growing and developing, we are able to step beyond the realm of negativity, fear, expectation, and judgment…

When we choose to revere their childhood, and admire their accomplishment of meeting the challenge of growing and developing, then the natural result is our respect and admiration of them and their autonomy, and we can then truly love them, unconditionally.

 

 

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When Your 4 Year Old Happily Cleans Her Room

At 10pm, no less…

Yes, you heard me right.  Last night, my little one came to me with all the sincerity and gentleness she could muster (I’ve been sick, she knew I was exhausted), and asked if I would be willing to get her “princesses” (Polly Pocket collection) out for her.  She wanted to play with them with her Papa before she went to sleep.

I collected this, um, collection about two months ago and put them up because there are so many pieces that she was having an impossible time managing them. Everything was consistently strewn, which just caused her and me frustration.  (Not to mention the pairs of shoes that were no longer pairs.)

I think Polly Pockets are intended for kids about 6 and up.  My Bugz inherited these about a year ago and she seemed to dig them, even if they drove her nuts not being able to dress the dolls and such without assistance.  But eventually, it just got overwhelming, so I put them away for a while.

Last night, she presented this request, and instead of heaving a big sigh (which, I try not to do because well, it doesn’t feel good to have someone sigh or roll their eyes in exasperation at me… so why do it to my little person), I smiled.  I looked at her for a moment, to determine if she was serious or just grasping for something to stall the sleep sequence (she’s recently become reluctant to go to sleep – something I’ll address in another post).

She was serious.  She’d already spoken to her Papa to get his agreement to play the activity with her, and she a scenario going in her head for the princesses to play out. Though I knew she was tired, I saw a chance to honor her choice to genuinely request (instead of whine), and respect and grant her desires. Even though I thought there might be better uses of time, it didn’t matter, she is her own person and this is what she felt  was valuable at that moment… I had the pleasure of saying “yes”. 

There was one caveat, however.  Her room was rather untidy (like, the floor had gone missing) and I knew that if we tried to add anything to it, it would just frustrate and ruin the experience.  I have been meaning to get to her room for a week or two now, but with all the traveling and randomness of our present life, and my excellent ability to selectively procrastinate, I hadn’t worked with her on it.  So, what a great opportunity (I hoped) to give her exactly her little heart’s desire, AND get her room cleaned… at 10pm, while hacking up a lung.  – This is when I laugh, the kind of laugh that warms the entire room.

I told her, and I quote, “I would be happy to get your princesses out for you, however I think your room has to be clean first, or you won’t be able to find a place to play with them.  Would you be willing to work with me (note: “work with me”, not, “help me”) to pick things up to make room for the princesses?”

“Sure.”

And she did.  She found it tough at the beginning, not knowing what to do and quickly becoming overwhelmed. (How many times have you told your older kids to clean their room, a power struggle ensues, and nothing gets cleaned?  There is likely a really good reason…)  Rather than run her out, tell her to just keep trying (which is defeating in a situation like this), or enter a battle, I have found it very successful to simply give her a task.  In our case, I asked her to start by rounding up all the shoes and putting them in her closet.  Later, I asked her to organize them in the closet by shoving them to one side, but initially just getting them in there was a step she could manage with confidence and success.

As I worked on the various miscellaneous stuff that would overwhelm any kid, I continued to make little piles and ask her to do certain actions with each.  She continued to help, then yawned a bit and sat down.  I asked her if she was tired.  Yes.  Did she still want to play princesses tonight?  Yes.

Now, here is where some parents would respond with, “Well then, you have to keep cleaning.”  In our home, bribery and coercion are tactics that are avoided as much as possible.  So, instead of saying something like this, I simply acknowledged her fatigue, and I continued cleaning and organizing while she relaxed.  No expectation of her, no shame imposed on her need for rest, and no resentment coming from me.

Within a few moments, she happily resumed working with me; she saw something that sparked her interest, that she knew she could succeed at, and she jumped right in.  Within 10 minutes we had completed the task together, one that would have taken her hours alone, one that she would not have succeeded at because of her current neurological development.  And one that, had I insisted she do alone (after all, she did make the mess alone), would have diminished her and left her feeling a failure (sometimes parents force the issue believing they are teaching responsibility… that’s not the lesson that is received however, and the child does not come out the other side with more self esteem or confidence).

Her room was spectacular!  She was beaming with pride, accomplishment, and self satisfaction.  She was also exhibiting gratitude, as was I.

Papa came, princesses were unearthed, and I went to relax with my lungs.

I don’t know when they finally drifted off to sleep, but I don’t care either; thankfully our schedule allows for this. More importantly, I trust that she will now forever have the memory of being safe enough to ask Mama for something that really mattered to her, being valued enough by Mama to be granted her request, being capable enough to work with Mama to complete an important task, being cherished enough by Papa to be played with (even when we’re all tired), and being unconditionally loved so much, that her sleep could come gently.  

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That Doesn’t Smell Good. Yes it does.

I invalidated my kiddo today.  I didn’t mean to.  And I tried to remedy and repair, as I managed to catch myself, three times (in one day, yes.. I know).
Nonetheless, I did precisely what I try to encourage others not to do.

The incidents were simple, each time my daughter voiced her opinion that something annoyed her (didn’t smell good, didn’t look good, she didn’t like it), and each time I countered that it was fine (did smell good, did look good, no reason to not like it).  Stupid.  Stupid.

The rub is the reason I responded as I did, because normally, I would simply acknowledge her opinion, acknowledge her for voicing it, ask questions perhaps, and let her have her thoughts and feelings (just like I want to be allowed my thoughts and feelings, and the validation of them and me).  But today, for whatever reason, each time she expressed a negative opinion (stated above), it happened to be in public, and in the presence of adults within hearing (and being offended) distance.

Today I decided, in a rather knee-jerk fashion, to allow my need for social acceptance from other adults to supersede my respect and value of my daughter. To me, this is unacceptable.

Each time I countered, I caught myself and was able to restate with something along the lines of, “You don’t think this smells good?  Well, I actually think it smells good, but you don’t. Ok.”  Mind you, this only after my immediate response of, “It does smell good”.

I might as well have told her, “Don’t say it doesn’t smell good, and it’s not ok for you think that.  Stop saying things that others will look at me funny out of assumed insult, where I might end up being embarrassed.”

Pathetic. I know.

What’s worse is… I know. I know better. I know how important it is to validate her, even if I disagree. I know how crucial it is to care more about her than what others might think (especially the general public).  SERIOUSLY.  I am not typically even remotely affected by what others think, why it got to me today, I don’t know. And it did get to me – at the expense of my little one – the one I’m to protect and uphold.

Lesson: Take my own advice and pay more attention.

Thankfully, my daughter allowed me to restate and try to repair each time (but really, I “caught” my error after the first time, why oh why did I repeat it twice more!!).  Yet, I know it is there now, and I can’t take it back… I can only improve.

How many times a day do we, as adults, invalidate our little ones without even realizing it? I would encourage you today to intentionally become aware and if you catch yourself (or hear others) simply countering your little ones, think before you open your mouth next time.  Remember, they are their own person. We have the responsibility to acknowledge their feelings and opinions as valid and worthy of existing – even if we don’t agree with them.

I wonder how many parents of teens would see a complete 180 in their relationships if they decided to zero in on this aspect of interaction with their teens, and make changes in their behaviors toward their teens.

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Responding to Imminent Danger: Physical & Emotional Threat

In a separate post, I discussed the difference between the terms “listen” & “comply”.  Toward the end of my thoughts, I ventured into the ever present, “But what if there is a reason my kid HAS to do what I’ve said, like, oh say, to keep him from plunging 1000′ to his death!”.

Rather than addressing this very important aspect of compliance in the same vein as the value of respecting a request, communicating expected compliance, and discovering what it really is to “listen” all in one, very long winded dissertation… I figured I’d split them up a bit.

From the previous post… continuing –
…That said, there are instances when the adult cannot fully articulate the entire phrase, including something along the lines of “compliance is expected”.  These sort of instances might be when walking in the city and or parking lot and the child is suddenly in some sort of danger.  In times like this, the adult often cannot sputter out much more than a “STOP” or other imperative in time, and the child’s safety depends on compliance. I’ll discuss this in a separate post.   This is when the sound of the adult’s voice, and the tone that is used (that being of imminent danger – the adult is responding out of fear and the kid can hear it, the urgency and importance, in the adult’s voice) is all that is required for the child to comply.

If the parent has established this foundation (their interactions and expectations being worthy of the child’s trust) and level of respect with the child from the beginning (whether from birth or whenever the child comes under the protection and guidance of said adult), they are in a positive position to provide the consistency and stability necessary that in a situation of threat/safety, the child will interpret accordingly and, if they are developmentally capable, respond appropriately. This is giving the benefit of the doubt to the child and his/her intelligence.. but it’s one that the adult has developed from their end and so is reliable; the adult is comfortable and so is the child.  Given, however, humans do not always behave predictably, so I would encourage the parent to be within reach of physically sparing your child harm, in the event they don’t process your words as you need them to.

AND IF THEY DON’T (process correctly), after the danger has passed, please simply reiterate to them what happened in a flat and respecting tone, reiterate your command and the value of their response having matched, and move on (unless they want to talk about it).  Don’t rub it in, don’t demean or diminish. And don’t think this is your chance (while the body is on heightened alert) to teach a lesson… as it will be one delivered and received with an association of fear.

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When my little one was just learning to walk, I took her to the park one day.  At this point (she was not quite 10 months old), she knew many signs that we used to communicate to her.  She didn’t start signing much back until a few months later, but she understood them.  She also understood an expansive list of verbally communicated words.  (We so often do not give enough credit of comprehension to our littlest ones until something happens to forces us to realize just exactly how much they are absorbing and processing.) 

We were walking, hand in hand, just a few feet from our home over to the park (across the street).  I had stopped to grab the mail and releasing her palm for a moment, reached into the box to retrieve the letters.  In a matter of less than two seconds, she’d decided to explore at full speed and, after somehow traversing the curb (didn’t know she could do that yet), she proceeded into the cul-de-sac, dangerously close to the through street.

Now, mind you, I was within reach of grabbing her back and protecting her, but I decided to use my voice instead.  (I’m not sure I actually made a conscious decision either, but that’s what ended up as my response.) I instructed her to stop walking and stand still.  She turned to my face, stopped and stood still, reached out her hand and said, “Mama, come.” 

From that day on, my trust in her intelligence grew and grew, as has my trust in my own regard for her and the value of it.  So, again, while I wouldn’t recommend relying entirely on a little one to process your verbal instruction sufficiently to prevent harm, there is a really good chance they will if you have set up a foundation for them to draw upon, even unconsciously.

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Why do you think we are sometimes compelled to scold or punish our kids when they do something (or don’t do something) that causes us to fear for their safety? What exactly is going on there in the adult’s mind and response systems?

Also, what connections might be drawn between parents who respond immediately to infant’s cries, and a baby/toddler/young one responding immediately to the parent’s communiations?

For additional reading on this topic, please visit Dangerous Situations

Listening-ear-heart

Listen to Me!

What does it mean to listen?

Main Entry:
listen
Definition: hear and pay attention
Synonyms: accept, admit, adopt, attend, audit, auscult, auscultate, be all ears, be attentive, catch, concentrate, eavesdrop, entertain, get, get a load of, give an audience to, give attention, give heed to, hang on words, hark, harken, hear out, hear tell, hearken, lend an ear, mind, monitor, obey, observe, overhear, pick up on, prick up ears, receive, take advice, take into consideration, take notice, take under advisement, tune in, tune in on, welcome
Notes: to listen  is to try to hear ; to hear is simply to perceive with the ear

1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; heed; obey (often followed by to ): Children don’t always listen to their parents.
3. to wait attentively for a sound (usually followed by for ): to listen for sounds of their return.
4. Informal . to convey a particular impression to the hearer; sound: The new recording doesn’t listen as well as the old one.
5. Archaic . to give ear to; hear.

Now, what does it mean to comply?

Main Entry:
comply
Definition: abide by, follow agreement or instructions
Synonyms: accede, accord, acquiesce, adhere to, agree to, cave in, come around, conform to, consent to, cry uncle, defer, discharge, ditto*, don’t make waves, don’t rock the boat, fit in, fold, fulfill, give in, give out, give up, go along with, go with the flow, keep, knuckle to, knuckle under, mind, obey, observe, perform, play ball, play the game, put out, quit, respect, roll over and play dead, satisfy, shape up, stay in line, straighten up, submit, throw in towel, toss it in, yes one, yield
Antonyms: decline, deny, disobey, oppose, rebuff, refuse, reject, resist

com·ply

verb (used without object), -plied, -ply·ing.

1. to act or be in accordance with wishes, requests, demands, requirements, conditions, etc.; agree (sometimes followed by with ): They asked him to leave and he complied. She has complied with the requirements.
2. Obsolete . to be courteous or conciliatory.

Related forms
un·com·ply·ing, adjective

Synonyms
1.  acquiesce, yield, conform, obey, consent, assent.
Antonyms
1.  refuse, resist.

Next time you hear yourself telling your child to “listen to me”… think about this.
Then, think about whether you are asking (not demanding) for compliance, and if so whether it’s fair and reasonable, or you simply exercising your “I’m bigger” factor. 

When is compliance actually necessary? 

What examples might you have to share when, in your home, compliance is compulsory? 
What examples might you have where compliance is a request and one that is just as acceptable for your child to deny as it is for you (parent)?