Considering that I’m not officially a parent yet, part of me feels like I don’t have the right to speak on this topic. The other part of me feels that I’ve been around enough children to know what I’m talking about. I’ll let the latter part be the bigger influence today. Children are a lot of work, period. I doubt many would dispute that statement. Even the best behaved children can make you wish they had an “Off” switch. It’s not their fault. They have to be busy, inquisitive, adventurous, and sometimes rebellious. These are the normal stages they go through so that they can develop into well adjusted adults.
So, it bothers me to see normal children, doing nothing more than what they’re supposed to at their age, being berated by their parents and called “bad.” When you’re 2 year old won’t sit down and adopts “no!” as his favorite response to anything you say, he’s not being bad. He’s exercising his newfound independence and ability to choose for himself. Of course this is frustrating, but it shouldn’t be characterized as bad. This only agitates the child and harms his budding self esteem.
If children’s behaviors aren’t viewed within the context of their developmental stages, bad behaviors are likely to be inadvertently encouraged and prolonged. Like the 5 year old that reassured me that “I’m is bad,” children begin to internalize the messages that they are exposed to the most. Have you ever met a child that said something about herself that you were certain she didn’t come up with on her own? (“I’m Julie. I’m 4 years old and I’m just destined for success.”) Though she clearly didn’t think this up on her own, she’s likely heard it enough that she now believes it and has no problem delivering the statement believably. The same thing happens with negative statements. That same girl could have said “I’m Julie. I’m 4 years old and I’m a bad little girl who never listens.” Which one of these seems more likely to have bad behavior?
It is absolutely crucial that children are praised and encouraged as well as disciplined. When we put our children down and only highlight their bad behaviors, the take away message becomes “I am bad. Bad is all I am capable off.”And if this is what they think of themselves, this is what they’ll display. Some children go their entire childhoods without receiving a compliment. Yet and still, their parents are always shocked at their uncontrollable conduct. They don’t see that these behaviors are the fruits of the seeds they planted and cultivated. Children are smart and very capable, but they aren’t able to form a solid, positive self image if their parents don’t teach them how.
P.S. Want more on parenting? Try my parenting blog www.momaandbaby.blogspot.com
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