I’m working this summer from home in the mornings and I did feel so organized and blessed to have a mother’s helper until her schedule changed and I had to come up with Plan B. Plan B is shaky and interesting. It involves my 7 year old keeping my 4 year old busy with crafts and stories and snacks! Today was day one of Plan B.
My daughter was wonderful. She had stories planned, a lovely art activity, … She felt secure in creating her own rhythm for her brother. Unfortunately, the rhythm didn’t feel secure enough for my 4 year old and I could tell that he was overwhelmed by choices and the feeling that I was unavailable, despite my physical presence in the same room.
It’s so common for parents to believe that we are respecting our young children by providing them with choices and freedom and decision-making, when, in fact, the power we are bestowing upon them is such a burden to them, can be the reason for tantrums and defiance, and ultimately, if continued over time, can develop a little one into the family bully or tyrant.
Developmentally, young children under age 7 need us to be the benevolent Kings and Queens of the home. We provide structure and predictability and a solid knowing of what will happen next. It is clear that my little boy needs Plan B to have more structure, more emotional availability from me to him. So tomorrow I will be guiding them both through the morning. “You may have outdoor play for a little while on the trampoline and then it will be time for some drawing inside.” A little structure and guidance will open a window for him to feel more creative later in the morning when he might get bored, and as in those brilliant boredom moments of the past, create a game by himself or with his sister.
I think more parents in our generation believe that our children should have choices throughout the day – about what they want to do and where they want to go. There are times when a small choice is appropriate. However, developmentally, it provides greater security and more cooperation in the child when parents take the lead, act confidently, have clear boundaries, make requests and ensure their child follows-through.
It is so tempting to allow our little ones, with their emotions and their tantrums, to make decisions. It’s amazing how bossy a 4 year old can become and how easily we can let ourselves give into their demands, if we aren’t careful. You must teach a child how you want to be treated. Parent out of knowing what is right, not out of fear of your child’s tantrums.
Just yesterday my daughter was frustrated with her brother and hit him. He said nothing and ran to me, “She hit me!” I told him, “Don’t ever let anyone hit you. Go back to her and tell her, “You may not ever hit me.””
When my 4 year old gets frustrated with me and starts to yell, “I want to go now!” I recognize that it is my job to teach him how I want to be treated. “You may not yell at me. We don’t talk to each other like that in our family.”
Are you giving your little one too many choices?
Are you teaching him or her how to treat you and others?
Effective benevolent Kings and Queens do not allow their princes and princesses to rule the kingdom. Developmentally, our princes and princesses are happier when we confidently and wisely take the lead.