I always tell my wife I need to be compiling a book of all the things you never thought you would have to say to another human being that have become regular speech since having children. I’ve actually had to say things like, “Please don’t sit on your brother’s face” or “Don’t ever urinate in the heater vent.” It’s hard to predict exactly what kids might do, but there are some things we can pretty confidently count on with almost all kids.
For that reason, it’s important for parents to realize that behaviors or incidents that may cause most of their alarm or frustration are common things that happen with numerous families. It’s not necessarily because you did something wrong as a parent or because your child is out to get you. It’s just things kids do. When we make this realization we can stop freaking out and proactively start teaching our kids effective ways to interact with the world. Our efforts to do this will help our kids learn in appropriate developmental timeframes how to enter the world successfully and independently.
1. Kids can be slow.
It’s hard sometimes to believe how long it can take a child to put their shoes on, to clean up three pairs of pants and two shirts from a bedroom floor or to get a drink at bedtime. The maturing of an oak tree comes to mind. They can be magnificently unhurried. They dawdle at a leisurely pace and stop with every distraction along the way. Remember and understand wholeheartedly that this snail pace is not because they hate you. It’s not because they want you to be late. It’s not necessarily even because they are being defiant. It’s just because they are slow.
Think for a minute about their size, their level of coordination. The sheer size of the world can be overwhelming. Think also about their level of fascination with the new world around them. When we look on the brighter side we see that they are interested. They are enjoying and savoring their experiences. They may not completely understand the need or value of speeding things up. Last week we addressed some ways parents can increase their patience and it’s important to realize, kids are slower than we would often like them to be. With this in mind, we may need to allow for greater prep time, engage them in motivating activities, or move happily forward with shoeless children.
2. Two and Three year olds (and sometimes older children) throw tantrums.
You did it too. Young kids often know what they want but do not have the communication or physical capacity to control what they want. They are still learning ways to deal with their emotions and have very little neurological ability for controlling impulses. Those three elements together make for a potential behavioral explosion.
Just realize that tantrums happen. Having a tantrum of your own never leads to better outcomes. Children are easily frustrated. The intense emotion will eventually pass, I promise. I’ve never seen even the worst tantrums last for days. The emotion will pass and you can then teach them how to solve their problems in a more effective and appropriate way.
3. Kids tease their siblings.
We’ve all seen that little knowing grin that reminds us of “The Joker’s” smile that crosses the face of a child when they intentionally stand in front to stop the progression of their pleading sibling. We’ve watched them hold on to the toy they have absolutely no interest in except that their little brother wants it. I’m pretty sure it happens to just about every kid.
I remember teasing my little brother relentlessly when I was young. I would get him to where his blood was just about to the boiling point and then I would strategically lead him into the kitchen where my mom was close by. When he exploded, Mom was right there to see. Things have not changed too much since I was young. This ritual seems to be a rite of passage for kids and their siblings. It was never helpful for Mom to overreact or jump to conclusion about who was at fault.
4. Children, especially first born children, like to play the parent.
“Do it this way.” “You won’t get any treats unless you eat your dinner.” “If you do that you’ll have to sit on a chair.” These are all statements I have heard my oldest son say to his little brothers. His little sister is still too young to really boss around but I’m sure she’ll get plenty of it as she grows up with three older brothers.
Other than my son’s sometimes inappropriate delivery, usually his bossiness gets the job done and Mom and Dad don’t have to be the bad guy. I know that is not his responsibility but as long as it is doing no harm, what’s the harm. I’ve found its best to address bossiness and demanding behavior by teaching during the good times rather than being bossy or demanding back. It won’t change overnight and there is no need to get angry or forceful about changing the behavior.
5. Kids don’t want to do chores.
Be honest. Neither do you. You would rather be playing than doing your chores? Kids may be more vocal and in some cases more dramatic about it, but it is really part of the human condition. We, kids and parents included, would rather be playing than working.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t teach our kids the value of work, or that we don’t require work. It only means that they don’t have to want to do it to get it done and can still display a positive attitude regardless. That starts with you. Whistle while you work. Not because you particularly love it or wouldn’t rather be doing something else, but because real work and effort have value and produce value. That is worth teaching.
The fact that each of these behaviors are inherent with children does not mean that we cannot influence these behaviors or that we should not teach our kids how to deal with their emotions and behavior. It simply means that positive expectations include an understanding that these are issues all parents deal with. These behaviors can be dealt with in love and with real teaching that takes place over time, rather than punishment that teaches them nothing more than disapproval and anger.
Later this week read the other five things parents should know and stop freaking out about. Part 2
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