TRUE STORY: “That’s not fair,” my five-year-old whined after not getting what she wanted. “Yeah, well, life’s tough and then you die,” I told her. Admittedly, I must have been on my last nerve and exhausted. Nonetheless, two days later, I was shocked when I heard her admonish her three-year-old sister, “Hey, life’s tough and you’re gonna die!” Ut oh.
Child development experts can’t argue against this proven principle, and by that, I mean children ARE containers. Give a child love, and he will love you back. Listen to your child and he will listen to you. Talk to your child and he will talk to you. Do the opposite in any of these areas and that is exactly what you will get in return. It comes down to this…be very aware of what your children hear because children are likely to repeat things even though they might not even comprehend what it is they’re saying.
Here’s another non-negotiable factoid about children:
When children rebel they are trying to tell us something.
I have to tell myself all the time:
Children are most like us in their feelings and least like us in their thoughts.
Aside from their physical needs, children need to feel loved for who they are. They need attention, a sense of privacy and independence, respect, trust, and security. They need to know that their feelings are validated and that your expectations for them are realistic. They need the same things that adults do, but young children are not capable of having a rational discussion about what’s bothering them, no matter how much we’d like that to happen. When any of these needs are not fulfilled then misbehavior or rebellion comes in.
HERE’S THE BOTTOMLINE: I like to be brief and to the point for a reason. Most parents (most people) don’t have time to read all the literature or get an advance degree in child rearing.
First of all, it’s not bad to feel emotions. It’s good to recognize them. Emotions are our inner guidance system. When a child acts out (and we know they will), be proactive. Choose a plan. After recognizing the emotion, you might want to create boundaries. Tell the child, “You have every right to feel the way you do, but we’re on a family happiness plan. You can complain for 2 minutes, but after that we’re moving on.” (I’m skipping the part about why this works.)
Secondly, children between the ages of two and eight are in the process of developing their sense of self-value and belonging. During these formative years, any investment a parent makes with regard to their relationship with their child will pay off, and dividends will be huge. When a child feels connected to his family, if open and respectful lines of communication have been established, then he or she will be less likely to rebel.