Often in the world of gentle discipline we are implored to look at our child’s needs and wants when they are acting in a way that we don’t understand or want. However, I often think that just attributing a reason “why” a child does something is really not enough or honestly, even always necessary. I have known and worked with a lot of children and their families, and I just don’t know as every childhood action that is trying or challenging to adults is the result of an unmet need that the parent needs to decipher. Yes, sometimes there are things going on that the child is feeling stressed about and cannot articulate well. Yes, we live in a fast-paced world and many children have an awful lot to deal with. Connection and attributing positive intent to a child’s often immature but developmentally appropriate actions are so important. But some actions are just things that children do for whatever reason, many times without really thinking at all.
So I guess part of this just depends upon how you view childhood development. If you think that children are rational, like a miniature adult with an adult consciousness, and therefore have the same rational motives that an adult would for doing something annoying (hahaha, because adults never do anything annoying!) then I think this theory of looking solely at a child’s possible unmet desires, or unmet wants makes perfect sense. However, if you believe in a view of childhood development where not every childhood action has a rationale behind it; that sometimes it just IS – well, then now you are talking to me!
So, I have to once again rely on boundaries. Whatever the motive for the behavior, boundaries are the things that I use to help my children learn how to connect and function with other people in community.
Because you see, it isn’t really all about them.
It isn’t all about me or my needs either.
It is about us living together and loving each other. It is about them being able to function in the world.
Sometimes that means they need my help to set a boundary on a behavior that might hurt themselves or someone else.
Sometimes that means if the behavior is annoying but typical of that developmental age and not causing harm, I need to drop my end of the rope because I cannot argue about everything in sight. We cannot live peacefully together that way.
Sometimes this means my child and I disagree with each other. A strong rhythm , lots of connection and lots of outdoor time can carry many things when a child is in the early years but my child still has the right to use that powerful word, “No.” My child is a human being and needs practice and how to learn how to set his or her own boundaries. “No” is an important first step. And, as a child approaches the age of nine or so there can be a shift toward the child coming into him or herself, so perhaps even more disagreements abound, and that is okay. My child needs practice in handling disagreements because learning how to resolve conflict is so important.
This often means the biggest detriment to teaching my child is myself. Am I passive? Am I not consistent? Do I withdraw my love when I am angry? Do I explode? Do I rage? Do I send a message to my child that he doesn’t live up to my expectations? Why do I have expectations anyway? Where did those come from? Are they realistic for a developmental stage? Do I make my children take responsibility for my feelings – do they have to step in and be the adult, placate me so I won’t be upset? My reaction to what someone else does – child or adult – is about MY boundaries as much as it is about setting boundaries for my children.
So, for today:
- Today, I will not be passive aggressive. I will say what I need, and I will stand there and help my child follow through with what I asked or I will not ask at all. If it is not important enough to help my child follow through, then it is not important enough to ask.
- Today, I will not yell or rage at my child. He is just a child and I am the adult. I am the only parent this child has and I will act like I have learned something in all my years of living and dealing with others.
- Today, I will not perceive boundaries as being “bad”. If I have a distaste in my mouth for “authority” and “the man”, I will remind myself that I am helping my child learn to function in the world and that discipline is an authentic leadership that guides out of love.
- Today, I will remember to help my child express their needs – and also help them understand that not all their wants are needs.
- Today, I will help my older children see that they can make choices and take on the responsibility for what these choices mean.
- Today, I will not put my children in the position of making decisions which they really are not mature enough to make. I am the parent, and I help guide things.
- Today, I will help my older children develop self-control by not robbing them of anticipation of something.
- Today, I will take responsibility for my own needs. It is not up to my child to meet my needs. If I need rest, if I need to exercise, if I need to have time to pray, then I will figure out how to make these important priorities happen so I can be the best parent I can be.
- Today, I will keep the dignity of my child intact even if we have a conflict.
- Today, I will keep the connection to my child and the love for my child alive and well.
Many blessings on your parenting today,