Updated: May 7
The one thing which can be relied on, as far as children are concerned, is the fact that they will act like them. This behaviour is enough to turn the best of us, into shouting, bawling control freaks, who cannot accept the fact that they drop things, scream, make a mess, get in the way and anything else they can do to annoy, wind us up or cause us to question our sanity.
By the same token, as a parent you may find yourself displaying more childish behaviour than you have for a long time. The feeling that if they can, then so can I, can cause you to revert to very un-adult like responses.
Before you respond to your child’s behaviour you need to think about what caused it.
This will help you to respond more appropriately:
1. They behave in certain ways because they are children
2. Their behaviour is linked to their stage of development
3. Their behaviour is a challenge to your authority
This article looks at behaviour types 1 and 2 as these are the most annoying ones. There is usually nothing they can do about the behaviour, and therefore there is nothing you can do either.
They are children! This means that they have limited abilities and skills. Their motor coordination may not be as good as it could be, leading to dropped stuff, messy eating habits and lots of little accidents.
The problem with these types of behaviour on us is:
The frustration builds, if you have picked it up off the floor once, you will have picked it up a hundred times, oh and by the way child, do not exaggerate.
It catches you out when you are concentrating on other things, “yes they are looking smart aren’t they” you tell your friend, “oh no get out of the puddle, look at your shoes!”
Most of the time the behaviour causes only small issues which you can cope, with but you know that small things can mount up to very big things. Remember the left up toilet seat, or the centrally squeezed toothpaste!
You may have seen children punished for behaviour type one, and two. A child who runs off, and will not come back (behaviour type three) is tempted by the offer of a balloon. When they get their balloon they do not concentrate on what they are doing, and they let it go, it floats away out of reach (behaviour type one). “You stupid idiot, that cost me $4 (£2),” SLAP. Punishing them for what is for all intense and purpose an accident, but rewarding them for ignoring a request which could someday save their lives (if near a busy road), seems strange, but people do it all the time. The balloon had an actual quantifiable value, and therefore the parent knows exactly what their child’s behaviour has cost them, but if you put a value on self-esteem, time, effort and your child’s life, then you can start to see that not controlling behaviour type three, could cost you a lot more.
When my girl’s portrayed behaviour type one, and got on my nerves all day. I definitely found the need to let out my frustration, usually verbally (I can be quite imaginative when it comes to words), I am only human, but I was willing to apologise for over reacting. I knew my children were not making a conscious effort to annoy me, they probably did not even know that they had done anything wrong. When they responded to my outbursts with tears, it made me feel bad, and usually had the effect of calming me down.
It is annoying and frustrating when children drop or knock things over, that you do not want them to, because they are choosing not to pay attention, certainly as you clearly pointed out that the breakable vase was there. When it was my property which got damaged, then it was hard not to react, and punish the accident. I eventually realised my reaction was doubling the punishment. They were usually visually upset at what had happened, reacting to the mood in the room, and the loss of their new plaything. It was hard explaining the meaning of cause and effect; I had to hope that they would learn eventually. A deep breath, or that reliable count to ten, helped me to delay my response to such situations. I would ask myself.
Was it done on purpose?
Is my child already upset?
You may want to consider these simple behaviour equations to help guide your response.
Situation, your child wants an ice cream.
Ability + Behaviour = Choices (A + B = C)
Ability - Does your child have the ability to hold and eat one? – Yes! great
Behaviour - are they easily distracted? Possibly, could be a problem
This could lead to a poor choice, leading to a dropped ice cream.
We as adults often jump in at this point with the fix!
We can see what is going to happen, and put in place solutions to help prevent the unwanted outcome.
The help our children to learn and make better behaviour choices in the future, we need to use another equation.
Describe + effect = Fix (D + E = F)
Describing the situation and the effect that different choices could have on the outcome will help them to become better at fixing their own problems in the future.
If you feel your kids are not comparing well with others, as far as development and capabilities are concerned. You can find yourself waiting for the next milestone, pushing for that next level of maturity. I encourage you to appreciate your kids for who they are, enjoy watching them move through the stages at their own pace.
Before deciding on whether or not your child will be the next Prime minister or Eisenstein thinking about how you define success is a useful exercise. A great advert once defined success like this:
1 year = Being able to put one foot in front of another 7 years = Having good friends 18 years = Being able to drive a car 20 years = Having sex 30 years = Having money 40 years = Having money 60 years = Having sex 70 years = Being able to drive a car 75 years = Having good friends 80 years = Being able to put one foot in front of another
A great way to put achievements in prospective!
Children develop in a range of different areas, which can be referred to as the ‘SPICES’ of life.
Social, Physical, Intellectual, Cultural, Emotional and Spiritual (Self Esteem)
Every child develops each area at different rates, depending on upbringing, genetic makeup and lots of other factors.
I believe that the most important part of a child’s Spice make up is their spiritual one (this is not tied with religion). This affects their feelings towards all the others. If you do not feel worth anything, you are not going to put all your effort into anything, therefore achieve less. Self-esteem is another term for your individual inner self talk; it needs to be saying positive things to help encourage you to be all you can be.
Only you are in control of how you talk to your child, and how you encourage them. You might not be the fittest person in the street, or the cleverest, or always fully in control of your emotions but you can usually control what you say and do. This is as valid for talking to yourself as for talking to your child.
If you find it hard to think well of your child then how can you expect them to think well of themselves?
Adults have a very complicated system of communication. Your child learns not only by verbal direction, but by observation of reactions to situations, and facial expressions. When you talk to yourself in your head, your brain reacts as if the sound came in through your ears. This can cause visible responses in your face or posture, therefore if you are trying to say nice things to your child, but are angry at them, for being an awkward little demon, then they will be able to tell that you are angry by the way you look. When you give mixed messages to your child, they will opt to listen to the face, and not the words. Visual communication is the form they are most attuned to.
I believe that it is better to admit your feelings and finish on a nice comment, if they know that the positive comment is not linked with your expression, the hope is, they will hear it.
I always think, would I accept anyone else talking to my child the way I am talking to them? If I would not accept it from others, then I will not accept it from myself.
Remember you are a great parent, your child is great, you are normal, and everyone makes mistakes.
If you enjoyed this article and got some insight, tools or tactics from it;
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b) SHOW us you like it
c) Connect with our community of intentional parents to get more tools and tactics https://bit.ly/Childishadult (Facebook group)
d) Watch the videos
Behaviour type one https://youtu.be/CsHfdSi1mOQ
Behaviour type two https://youtu.be/sHK7r4Btqtg
All the very best
Ruth Taylor www.ruthtaylor.net