Have you ever stopped to think about what your child is learning from you? From watching you in every interaction? Our kids learn the most from watching how we react to situations in our every day lives.
What Is Your Child Learning?
Let’s set the scene…
Jessica is a 2 year old child. Every morning when her mother Linda needs Jessica to get ready to leave the house to get to work, Jessica stalls. When Linda tries to get Jessica ready, little Jessica throws a first-class temper tantrum. Linda, in an attempt to get her child to cooperate, says to Jessica, “If you don’t come right now, I’m going to leave without you.” Jessica gets scared and cries as her mom grabs her to get ready.
Linda, a single mother is too riled up in the moment to see a way out of this cycle. Every morning Linda anticipates the worst, and she gets it. Every morning she does whatever she believes will get her out the door the fastest. Yet, if she were to pause, take a step back and observe she would see a few things.
Linda would see that Jessica is clearly learning some lessons from her…. but not the lessons she wants her to learn.
First, Jessica is learning that if someone scares you enough, you cooperate, otherwise, why bother? You might as well stall until you get scared that the other person is going to do something.
The second lesson hasn’t been learned yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Soon enough little Jessica will learn that her mom isn’t really serious about leaving her behind. It’s just an idle threat not to be taken seriously. So Jessica doesn’t really need to listen. Also, by her mom lying to her, Jessica will learn that it’s OK to lie. If it’s OK for her mom, it’s OK for her.
Jessica is also learning that power and force win. They are engaged in a battle of wills. A power struggle. Linda wins eventually because she is more powerful. But, it’s only a matter of time- maybe 10 years- before the tables will turn.
In situations like this, it’s important to take a step back and ask, “What is my child learning from what I’m saying or doing?” Then common sense steps in. Also ask yourself, “What do I want my child to learn instead?”
When you disengage from the power struggle, answers tend to come to mind, such as, “I’d rather have my child learn she’s safe with me.”
If Linda would have stepped back even further, she would have realized that because Child Services took Jessica away for a few months and moved her from one foster home to another, Jessica is scared to death about being left behind again. By telling her daughter, “I’ll leave you if you don’t come now”, it only increases her fear of abandonment.
You want you child to be able to count on you and what you say. It is best then, to follow through on what you say. If you say you’re going to leave her behind, you really have to be willing to do it. Are you willing to really leave her? No. So it would be best then, to find something to say that’s not a lie.
As a parent, you really don’t want your child to learn that the only time she has to obey is when she’s forced. And you don’t want her to learn that life is about power struggles.
You’d rather have her learn that life is about cooperation and helping each other out. You’d like her to learn that when a commitment is made you keep it, whether you feel like it at the time or not.
So it would be better to disengage from the power struggle and show her caring and firmness at the same time.
What Your Child Is Learning- A Better Outcome
With this new perspective, Linda could say, “Honey, I really don’t like having to do this to you. I know you don’t like it, and I’m sorry. But mommy has to go to work, and I can’t leave you behind. So you have to come with me now.”
Because of their past history, Jasmine will throw a temper tantrum and scream that she’s not going. She’s used to it and it gets her attention.
“Honey, it’s not a question of whether you will go. It’s how you will go. It’s so much nicer for everyone if you come nicely. It’s nicer for you and it’s nicer for me. You tell me how you would like to do it. What can I do to help you?”
If Jessica continues to kick and scream, her mom would want to make it a non-issue. We don’t want to respond. As gently as possible under the circumstances, we simply do what we have to do to get ready. This shows her there is no issue. She’s simply going to come with us, either kicking and screaming or nicely and cooperatively.
Linda might be tempted to say, “We’ll do something nice together later when we get back.” But we have to be areful here.
First, we must absolutely be certain if we say it, we will do it, because we want our child to be able to count on us. And second, we don’t want our child to think that she can agree to go only to get some reward later.
By stepping back and gaining a new perspective, we can see what we really want to accomplish in the long run. Then we only have to do what makes sense. With a clear mind- wisdom and common sense appears.
How To Clear Your Mind If Your Mind Is Not Clear…..
It’s not about going out of your way to clear your mind. Trying to have a clear mind tends to get in the way of having a clear mind.
Instead, it’s about recognizing that when our head clears, wisdom appears.
Simply stopping and taking a step back from the situation or from our child allows for this to happen. A calm mind will have more of a tendency to apear naturally.
When we are relaxed, clear, calm and have nothing on our minds, our minds naturally function in a healthy way. Backing off, taking a breather and regaining our bearings sets us up to be more in touch with what our wisdom tells us about what to do. It also helps our children to be more relaxed so that they can be more in touch with their own.
With innate wisdom comes automatic self-respect, respect for others, and unconditional self-esteem. When children feel these, they naturally function in a healthy, responsible way because that’s who they are inside.