Kids don’t act out for no reason. Though often times parents feel that they do, and I’m certainly not innocent of that myself. If a child is misbehaving, the first thing to cross our minds is typically a judgement about why they shouldn’t be. ” She has more then I ever had as a child, how can she be so ungrateful“, we think to ourselves.
For Marin and I, realizing the truth behind this skewed perception has done wonders for not only our peace of mind but also our ability to address and guide our little girl through the ups and downs that are inevitable in life. It goes something like this:
You are at the store trying to get some shopping done for dinner and some money-hungry, consumerist-promoting peddler has decided to place a plethora of brightly colored, bigger than your head, balls in an easily accessible bungee barred carton dead center of a high traffic area at the end of an isle. Without doubt they catch the eye of your innocent youngster who has, at this point, tired of the idea that despite their turning the steering wheel of their race car inspired shopping cart to the right, it keeps going left. Throwing themselves from their moving, unresponsive cart they proceed to tear at the multi colored balls which pop out of their weak elastic bindings with ease. You say to your child after failing to park your cart where it won’t be in anyone’s way,” Sweetheart you have a green one just like that at home.” After some back and forth on the matter with both parties holding firmly to their stance, your little one makes a last plea in the form of a tantrum.
“Spoiled child“, you can almost hear the passersby saying, though that bit is all in your head. You believe the thought though, because that is how you were raised, how those around you were perceived, and the general view of the society you are a part of. Your egoic inner voice implores you to lay down the law with a solid and final,”NO!” This is one option. Albeit the same old one with it’s predictable outcome of escalated protestations from your child. On the other hand you might cave out of embarrassment only teaching your child that crying in public is successful and that you are ashamed of their behavior. For us there is a third option that involves understanding your child’s point of view and validating their feelings.
The situation might unfold like this:
You meet them on their level, which probably means swallowing your pride at this moment and crouching down in the isle to speak softly, face to face with your child. This can be disarming in itself as you are no longer the all powerful “voice of OZ” bellowing down on them from your great position of power. You ask a simple question geared at understanding their feelings and or wants. “You really like these balls don’t you?” Might still be a tearful response at this point, but you continue… ” there are more colors here that you don’t have and you think they’d be fun to have also?” What Marin and I have found is that the more the child feels genuine care and understanding for their perspective, the more they soften and come to accept their own emotions.
Lets face it, kids at this stage don’t really grasp the idea of money, space, time, or needs vs wants. So why would expect them to understand these concepts without some conflict or better put, confusion? Very understandable, given their perspective and limited experience. BUT given the support and understanding that they want something they can’t have and that is frustrating for them, the child learns that emotions are ok to feel and express, though they won’t necessarily change anything. Learning this allows them to feel, understand and even manage their feelings, something that either of the other two options would have negated. This concept most definitely takes practice, but with genuine energy from you without personal motives getting in the way, you can give your little one a the opportunity for a healthy emotional development in a world where they will make good use of it.
Carry patience and love with you. You can do it.