I am shocked at how often people explain that their child is in a “phase” one month, and then another, but more extreme “phase” five years later. Interestingly enough there seems to be a missing link in parenting books that explain that the “phase” of constant tantrums when it comes time to share is actually a behavior that is going to follow this child into adulthood.
Truth is, we are not raising children to continue their lives as children. So why do we raise them that way? We are raising little humans that are going to grow up to be awesome friends, parents, and citizens… or we are raising little humans that are going to be big jerks one day.
Whenever your child does something that isn’t an actual developmental stage (crying instead of speaking, asking lots of questions), but rather a learned behavior (hitting, lying) realize that it’s probable that this behavior could continue. It is in these parental conundrums that we have to look at our job as parents not as raising children, but rather that we are raising mini adults- and many of the behavioral issues our kids have, will translate into adulthood causing huge problems in their work ethic, relationships, and individual health.
Therefore while raising our children we can offer some guidance that they can utilize throughout their growing phases, and then into adulthood.
Thinking for Oneself
Imagine a child learning to walk. They fall down and occasionally get hurt in the fall. Protecting children from hurt by forbidding them to walk would be wrong.
The injuries from falling are best prevented by learning to walk properly. The best prevention for a child’s bad decisions is teaching them to make good decisions. Just as I don’t teach my child to walk by walking for her, I do not teach a child to make proper choices by making all choices for her.
Some examples of this can start with:
- Allowing them to say if they are uncomfortable with something, or someone. If they express that they do not want to hug an extended relative, forcing a child to feel emotionally responsible for appeasing people by touch is an unhealthy way for them to learn how to show affection. Kids should have the ability to express how they feel about their bodies.
- Gender affiliated toys are in the media all over- so let it be said- if your kid wants to play with legos, let them play with legos, if they want to play with dolls, let them play with dolls. Why would be push our gender stereotyped toys on children?
- Music is a form of expression, letting your kids have a playlist of songs they like (and are obviously parental approved), and can boogie down to allows them to form an opinion of music they do and don’t like- even if it’s a little different than what mom and dad like. Allowing them to have things they like, even if you don’t, lets them know that they don’t have to be just like you.
As parents we tend to hover over children and do not give them the time to be content and happy by themselves. Setting up too many play dates or adult observation time can make a transition out of the home hard for a new college student, and can make young adults afraid to spend time alone, or out of a relationship. This becomes a learned behavior of co-dependence, which later in life will lead to an individual that can be content with friends buzzing nearby, a list of things to do every night of the week to entertain them, or feelings of contentment only in a relationship.
Some ways to exercise the individual spirit in children:
- Stop hovering- let them play with friends, pets and alone without you having a constant watch. This includes making plans for them, sometimes it’s OK for kids to have nothing to do, and have to find their own fun!
- Let children learn how to play, feed, and take care of their animals. At first this may require some guidance, however, soon it will help teach responsibility and care for someone other than themselves.
- Don’t mistake independence and individual play time for distress or unhappiness. If you ask them if they are sad every time they play alone, this may reinforce that individual time is a negative thing.
- If a child shows interest in doing something independently: dressing themselves or making themselves a sandwich, always reinforce this with positive affirmation, even if it’s not exactly how you would have done it. Peanut butter and butter sandwich may sound gross, but the confidence to do something themselves will soon lead to learning the best methodology.
Last and most important of all, teaching children that there are consequences for all behaviors is the best way for children to learn early on that there are wrong, and right ways of doing things, and if you choose the wrong way, you are not going to be bailed out by mom.
This includes not consoling after co-parent punishment, grandparent discipline, or the scolding of a teacher.
Remember, if you look at your child, and think “in ten years will this behavior be OK, and are they on a path to outgrow this behavior” and you think no, to yourself. Then do something, before you have a sloppy, tantrum throwing, poor behaving, selfish, 18-year-old on your hands.
[tweetthis]We’re raising adults. A post about raising children to become awesome adults. #parenting[/tweetthis]
Lauren Penrod is expecting her first child in November, after many years of studying early developmental psychology. She was born and raised in Boise, Idaho, and loves her big little city. Visit her @lauren_penrod.