One day your baby suddenly shows he or she has realised something very special: Their sense of SELF.
This means he/she has realised they have preferences, they can make decisions and put themselves where they want to be. If he wants to play with mud, he can use his legs to take him there without the help of mum. If little girl wants to draw with pencils, she knows where to find her pencil case and can easily set herself up to draw.
A common scenario we face, as parents of quickly maturing young children, is how to make them do what we want to do, when we want them to do it. Often when we ask that they come inside, pack away their toys, eat their morning tea, or turn off the t.v, we are met with a sweetly spoken (or not-so-sweetly spoken in some cases) response: ‘No, I’m just doing this,’ or ‘I don’t want to,’ and sometimes we are simply ignored (not to be confused with not heard).
Mums or dads get exasperated, frustrated, and sometimes resort to arguing and raising their voices, or threatening and bribing. The truth, however, is this: your child is responding to you just as you have taught them to. They think you are perfect! Everything you do and say will be copied one day … and that is nothing but a compliment. But it really shows our responsibility in guiding them appropriately, doesn’t it?
How to set a good example to your kids
Next time your son or daughter asks you to do something for, or with, them, watch how you respond. What are you teaching them about ‘how to respond’ when they ask for your attention? Do you ask them to wait until you’re finished, or tell them that you don’t want to, or that there is something else you have to do?
The best way to show them how you want them to respond is to do it yourself. Agree to do what they want. Take a break from what you are doing and enthusiastically say, ‘Ok!’ or respectfully ask them for just a moment. You have endless choices here on how you can respond in a YES way – just choose a way that you are happy for them to mimic and start doing it today.
Our ideas on how to handle common daily challenges, gently and respectfully, are:
1. Plan what you and your children will be doing at least five minutes ahead.
2. From a distance, quickly observe what your child is doing and their interest in that activity.
Watch for the educational benefit in what they are doing and appreciate their independence and growing skill-set.
3. Decide if you want your child to carry on with what they are doing or if you want them to stop.
4. Compliment them on their skills and progress. Then update the child on what is next on the schedule, have a brief conversation about what you will be doing next.
5. Give them TWO CHOICES.
– Do you want to come with me now, or in five minutes?
– Will you bring that with you, or leave it here?
– Can you finish that later, or does it have to be done now?
– Can I help you finish what you are doing, or is it better to do it all by yourself?
– Is there anything I can do to help?
Then let him/her make their decision. Support their decision and help them follow through.
6. If they need and want you to stay with them and show them what to do, then stay. Guide them on putting away the toys, washing their feet or packing their bag. It is essential that you follow through within a few minutes, even if it feels inconvenient for you to wait, you must stay! Show that you mean what you say. This is another sensational example to set.
Remember Mary Poppins singing songs to make cleaning the nursery a fun activity? And the song, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”? You can be the spoonful of sugar here.
You have the power now to change the list above to suit you. Imagine you are busy on the computer and your son or daughter speaks to you as I’ve suggested in Point 4 and Point 5. Would this improve things for you? Re-write the questions if you like.
How to set a good example to your kids
For young babies and toddlers who are not ready to communicate as I’ve suggested above – DISTRACTION is the answer. Instead of saying ‘No’ and telling them what you don’t want them to do, shift their attention to what you do want them to do. Every time, and consistently.
As for changing already instilled ideas and behaviour:
When your child ‘declines your invitation’ (sweetly or not-so-sweetly) it can be very unhelpful to show your son/daughter that you have lost your sense of calm and composure – and ultimately, your maturity. It’s NOT ideal to teach them these messages: ‘If I demand something and don’t get what I want, it’s ok for me to push, push and push until I win. It’s ok for me to cut you off when you are speaking. It’s ok for me to talk over you. It’s ok for me to cuddle and bribe. It’s ok for me to lose my temper. It’s ok for me to raise my voice. It’s ok for me to give up, walk off in a huff and be unfriendly because I didn’t get my way. It’s ok for me to complain about you to others because I don’t know how to get my way with you.’ You are essentially teaching your child to respond to their friends, and you, the same way. And, you are giving them negative energy, which can escalate.
It is also unhelpful to give these messages to your child: ‘I am superior to you, my ideas are more important and more correct than yours. I’m your boss and I demand you do as I say.’ See – you are teaching your son or daughter to grow up thinking there is inferiority and superiority between themselves, friends, relatives, famous people, and colleagues.
In actual fact, we are all equally as important and our ideas and wishes are equally valid. Status and hierarchy is – in today’s age – a disappearing act. This is not a bad thing and a result of poor parenting. It is natural, spiritual progression towards a positive future where all humankind will live fulfilling and empowered lives. We are on our way there now. Think about the adult world and how any movie star or politician can be reached and even friended via social media, and how many of us are becoming self-employed or home-schooled (promoting self-sufficiency and confidence), and how a small insignificant person can be heard just as well as the prime minister with the use of social media and television. The world is moving forward quickly to this idea: No one is more, or less, important than another.
However, we are a species who learns by imitation, absolutely. A young toddler watches her mother drink water from a glass, before she tries it for herself. Look around you and observe how your children watch you before they try it for themselves. This is their sense of safety. Imitation is safety.
You can respect your child as an equal and still say, “this is how a grown up would do it.” And, “because I’m grown up, and I’ve had lots of practice, I know a good way to do this.” Help them embrace imitation. Once you understand your meaning you can abbreviate to “because I’m grown up” without being patronizing or an unequal authority.
(In fact, this is one of the foundations in Steiner schools to teach children how to form their first letters on the page.)
In the big scheme of things, society is progressing towards one where everybody is treated equally and discrimination is no longer fashionable or tolerated. And from a spiritual perspective – we are all children and we are all adults … just at different times (and time is merely a measurement unit to help us plan our day). The way we were raised by our parents, with a distinct separation between parents and children based on status, is not in sync with today’s ways. Our children are born knowing how to fit into today’s world: they are waiting for us, their parents, to join them. The physical development is something we can teach them, respecting who they will become.
So when you want your child to do something for, or with, you, it is helpful to think maturely, cleverly and be pro-active in your approach. Because young children need our guidance rather than our punishments and to be led by example. Teach them to say yes, to be helpful and respectful – and most importantly, teach them that they are capable of making decisions and facing consequences with your support and example “this is how I would do that, are you ready to have a turn?” Teach them skills for life.
How you teach them to behave at this fragile age will shape their personality – you are showing them how to deal with their own friends and family members now, in primary school, and as teenagers. Your responsibility – and duty of care – as a parent is to show them the best way to handle such situations rationally.
And remember, we are all connected to each other through love and the miracle of life.
Let’s all have a happy day.
Joanna Becker, Author and Wellness Medium
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