Treat your children as you would like to be treated yourself
Treat your children as you would treat an adult!
This isn’t as obvious as it sounds! But if you want your children to start listening to what you ask them to do, it is an important step in the right direction.
The motivation for me to write this post was personal. I was desperately trying to get my small daughter to bed a few nights ago. However, it was a night where my husband had ended up in hospital (minor problem) and I had to get the kids to bed quickly so I could take him an overnight bag. Typically, I couldn’t find his wash bag with toothbrush etc in so I emptied mine out onto my bedroom floor and put all his bathroom things in that. As I was running the bath for my daughter, she found my toothbrush and the travel head that clips over it to keep it clean. She just wanted to play with it endlessly clipping it on and off again. I am lucky that my 2-year-old is very eloquent because as I was trying to persuade her to get to the bath, she simply turned to me and said ‘I haven’t finished yet’! It was in this moment that I realised my agenda was getting in the way of what she wanted to do. Would it hurt me to wait two minutes until she had felt she had clipped the head on and off again 20 times. Certainly not. But what I can guarantee would have happened if I had dragged her away from the toothbrush and clip was that a temper tantrum would have ensued and then instead of having spent 2 minutes playing, I would have spent 10 minutes trying to calm her down. This doesn’t mean we give in to what our children want, it just means we have reasonable expectations of what might be going on in their heads – and of course, this depends on their age and stage of development. In her head, she hadn’t finished playing. Along with the 2 minutes I prepared her for the fact that we were going to go to the bath when 2 minutes was up so she was ready to stop playing.
Have a think right now about how often you expect your kids to turn the television off immediately, leave what they are playing with so you can get out of the house, or tidy up their toys before bed! Then think about how you would feel if someone came into the room while you were watching your favourite television programme and told you to turn it off right away, and when you didn’t, turned it off for you.
And what about if you were in the middle of a game of golf, or tennis, or football, or were preparing dinner or having a conversation with your partner, or anything else that you like to do, and someone told you to stop immediately and go and get your coat and shoes on.
And then what if you had been working on a project for your job – you’d brought it home from the office, carefully laid out all your papers, had worked really hard on it until late in the night and had left it ready to work on in the morning again. But in the night, while you were sleeping, your partner came and tidied all your work away and filed it in a drawer so you didn’t know where it was and it was all in the wrong order! How are you feeling now?
Cross? Frustrated? Angry? Annoyed?
These are just some of the emotions that our children feel when we make demands on them like turning the computer off straight away, or tidying away what they have been playing with. Their play is their imaginary world and it is often just as important to them as our work is to us. So, it’s no wonder that when we make these demands on our children, to come straight away when called, or to do something else when they’re in the middle of playing that they are often - at the least reluctant and ignore you - and at the most they throw an enormous tantrum and refuse point blank to do what you say.
As a parent this can be one of the most frustrating situations. Especially because as adults we have our own time schedules that we expect our children to run to, but most children simply don’t have these. This means that ignoring you is an option – and means that you end repeating yourself time and time again to ‘put your shoes on!’
If we now go back to the title of this piece, ‘Treat your children as you would like to be treated yourself’, take a moment to think about how you would treat a visitor in your house – and then apply these same rules to your children. You certainly wouldn’t ask them 10 times to put their shoes on and, if they were in the middle of doing the crossword on the kitchen table, you would be unlikely to tidy it away – and probably not without checking it is OK with them first if you clear it off the table so that it can be set for dinner. Think about what they might say then too – they might even offer to move it for you themselves! Wouldn’t it be lovely if your children offered to do this?
So, this week practice treating your children like adults. Or, as I said to my neighbour recently, just pretend your mother-in-law (or partner, child’s teacher or priest) is watching you with your children and treat your kids how you think they would like you to treat them! It will actually save you time, and perhaps your sanity in the long run! Ask them about clearing their toys away, prepare them that the television needs to go off, and alert them to the fact that you will be leaving for school at 8:20 (if they can tell the time or in the next 5 minutes if they can’t).
That’s not to say I always get it right – at the supermarket last night, I took her out of the trolley and she kicked off straight away. I put her in the car still upset and tried to strap her in, but she wriggled and arched her back and took her arms out of the straps and I thought there was no way I would ever strap her in. So, I took a deep breath and stopped and asked her if she was cold? Or wanted something we had bought from the shops? Or wanted to stay in the trolley! Yes, she nodded. She wanted to stay in the trolley. I hadn’t yet taken it back to the trolley area, and so I could easily have popped her back into it and wheeled it over there and then got her out and back to the car. But in the moment that I had talked to her, she had calmed down a little and enough for me to strap her in, so I did and then I took the trolley back ( I could still see the car just parked across from me!) and went to drive home. However, she hadn’t finished being sad about the trolley and so cried all the way home! It would have taken me very little to put her back in the trolley and I don’t know why I didn’t. I guess I was just thinking about getting home quickly to cook dinner. But it made me sad to think I could have stopped her being sad by just tweaking one little thing!
Just one small caveat, children are obviously not really adults! So for my next newsletter, expect a post on how to treat your children age appropriately as well! The above message is basically just to treat your kids with respect, not to expect them to behave like adults do, because of course, they won’t!