All the comments seem to circle around the following: Be empathetic to your young child's chaotic internal state; don't say "no" too often, but when you do, mean it! This is said in a ton of different ways: Pick your battles, give your kids freedom within clear boundaries, allow them to explore but provide a sense of safety....
There's a lot of wisdom there and I see the same applied here in Kenya. My neighbor said something to the same affect recently about there being a lot of leeway for small kids, but when it comes to some things which are important, like greetings, parents are consistent and stern.
But there was something else that kept coming up in comments that I've heard throughout my life as a parent and which continues to mystify me. It is: "Expect your children to behave, and they will."
WHAT IS THIS? It seems like some kind of wishful thinking voodoo.
Still, being a desperate parent, I've actually tried it, in a "clandestinely trying to telepathically hypnotise my child into good behavior" kind of way. I'll just visualize a positive response to a request (e.g. pick up your toys). As I'm visualizing the good behavior, I'll even change the way my voice sounds, breezy and casual as if OF COURSE you pick up your toys, hoping that the mystical positive vibrations in my voice will reach his core chakra and gently guide him to make the "good choice." I may even telepathically send the message "You are a good boy. You will pick up your toys and make your mother happy." just for good measure.
Is this what you people mean? If so, I'm not sure it's working. He mainly just looks at my clearly false serenity, scratches his head, and may or may not do my bidding.
Still, amid my mocking of this "expect good behavior" advise, I had the nagging sensation that I had heard this before. And then I remembered.
In my former life I did research on programs that support "disconnected youth" (formerly known as "delinquents" in less polite circles). These are young adults who are not in school or working and may have cycled in and out of foster care and might even be homeless. They are kids that most adults have given up on and who have the deck stacked against them. They probably frustration people who love them the same way young children do.
My job was to figure out how the programs who had the best success reaching these youth were doing it. We interviewed dozens of these places, and do you know what kept coming up again and again? Yup. "Expect good behavior."
But with older kids who are used to being distrusted and treated like criminals it's easy to think about how to realign this. Give them more responsibility than they think they can handle, and show them you know they can do it. Don't start off the relationship by talking about what they aren't allowed to do or what will happen if they break the rules. Don't react to transgressions as if you expected them to make them. Don't act too surprised when they act correctly. Proud but not surprised. .
OK. So, maybe this is it! Maybe the same applies for the little ones. And maybe the way you say things does matter. Like yelling, "Jesus Chrsto, Caleb if you do that one more time...." could become a calm, "You know better. But if I see that again I'm going to have to..."
I'm sure there are a bunch of ways this can manifest itself without having to consult a shaman. Now, I'm just going to have to figure those out. Your ideas, as always, are welcome!
|Just a cute pic of Caleb. Because he's truly a kind, sensitive, funny kid who's generous with his friends, and I've been overly focused on his periods of defiance and tantrums in the last few posts. |
See what I'm doing here?