10 Things Parents Should Know About Kids and Stop Freaking Out About: Part 2

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I know yesterday you probably thought I couldn’t count when I presented only 5 things Parents Should know about kids when I titled the post 10 Things Parents Should Know About Kids and To Stop Freaking Out About. Well, here are the other five.

Getting tested1. Homework Sucks!

Sometimes homework is busy work. When kids understand the subject, they feel like it is unnecessarily taking away from their free time to learn and entertain themselves with things they care about. When they don’t understand the subject, they get frustrated and feel it is going to “take forever.” In their minds homework is a violation of their time that falls outside the regular jurisdiction of the school.

Parents can minimize the distress and the quarrels between themselves and the child by empathizing rather than challenging them when they say things like, “I hate this” or “I don’t know why I have to do this over and over, what a waste of time.” The requirement to finish the homework still stands but the parent demonstrates that they understand and are there to assist the child if needed.

2. Kids struggle with ambivalence between needing you, but wanting to be separate from you.

We often think of this as a teenager issue because teenagers are big enough and capable enough to assert some actual physical independence, but it is something that starts at a very young age. Every time your child starts to test boundaries, they are learning and testing the balance between self-reliance and personal efficacy and dependence and trust.

Balancing that level of freedom and dependence can be one of the most important and difficult balancing acts parents deal with in their lives. Both independence and dependence are important. None of us are completely self sufficient. We all need help from time to time, yet it is imperative that kids feel that they can do things for themselves, that they are strong and capable.

3. Boys make messes and are loud.

You would not believe the messes my three boys can make. Oh, wait, you probably can. You have probably experienced it too. Just when we feel like we get one mess cleaned up, the room erupts. My boys can clean their bedroom from top to bottom in the morning and by noon, there is no place to step because of clothes, toys and who knows what else might litter their floor. They can go outside for two minutes and come back covered in dirt from head to toe. They can sit down for a meal and when they leave it looks like a herd of cookie monsters was there. Because boys are loud, it’s never a secret where they are making their messes.

I always say, “It gives them plenty of opportunities to learn to clean and take responsibility for things.” Messes are not the enemy. Remember that the cleanliness of your house is not the measure of your value as a parent or even as a person. Allow boys to play, get dirty and make messes but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to clean up after themselves. Cleaning up after I make a mess is simply a natural consequence of that action.

4. Girls make different kinds of messes.

At family gatherings it’s always interesting to observe the difference between the boys and girls. When the toddler girls disappear we start to wonder where they are and what mess we are going to have to clean up. While the boys are tearing through the house, rambunctiously pulling cushions off the couch, spreading toys across the room and stripping their clothing off without rhyme or reason, the girls are quietly stalking behind gently closed doors splashing toilet water all over the floor, dumping soap out, playing princess with mom’s makeup or creating some other quiet form of child art. Girls intrigue with paints, dollhouses, and dress-ups can rival even the biggest messes made by the boys. Not to mention, traces of glitter can be found for years.

In either case it’s important to remember that it was not done to spite you. It was done out of curiosity, exploration and pure fun. Always remember that your relationship is more important than the mess. Your child is more precious and valuable than the stuff.

5. Kids don’t like consequences.

Parents that I meet with in counseling frequently tell me, I give consequences for his behavior and he gives me attitude. I ask, “Does he fulfill the consequences that are provided?” They reply, “Yeah, but he gives me this grumpy look and says things like ‘this isn’t fair!” What do we expect? Do we really suppose our children will respond to our discipline by saying, “Why thank you father for holding me accountable for what I have done. I will be sure to learn responsibility and respect for other people’s things as well as the value of hard work.” Doesn’t usually happen. I won’t say never, but generally speaking, if you’re children say things like this, they are aliens that will probably abduct you while you are sleeping. So watch out!

Just because they don’t like the consequences doesn’t mean they don’t want them or that they don’t need them. Just because kids need boundaries and consequences and they don’t always respond in positive ways doesn’t mean that consequences have to be delivered in an angry, cruel or otherwise negative way. Stick to your guns but deliver consequences with love and empathy.

Question: What are some other things you think parents should know and stop freaking out about?

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