Believe it or not, but one of parents’ important duties is to disappoint their child. Gradually raising the edge of maximum permissible disorder, we make the child stronger and teach him to fight back in the situations when he will have to deal with people: at home, at school, at work, in the future family.
How to develop autonomy in children
- We do not restrict children in anything. We do not want to upset them.
- Should I buy another doll for her, even though it costs a lot? All the girls have such dolls, so she will probably be disappointed.
- I’m telling my four-year-old daughter what is good and what is bad. And then she decides how to act.
- My three-year-old son always decides what he will eat. I’m not going to force him…
Alex (two and a half years old) decides every morning what he will have for breakfast. It often happens that he wants eggs, but while mom is cooking them the boy changes his mind and asks for a sausage, which he eventually does not eat… In general, the child ends up eating cookies with milk.
Girls are fond of very expensive dolls. A nine-year-old daughter is bought a second doll from the collection, and her mom spends a considerable part of her salary to purchase it. She explains this act mostly to herself than to others: “All her friends have two or more dolls. She would be terribly upset to have only one.”
Nothing but the facts
Even if you protect the child too much (including the situations where this protection is not particularly needed), he/she will sooner or later face conflict situations. Most likely, this experience will be painful because the child will be unable to cope with the challenges or will find it as difficult to approach and solve them as climbing Everest.
You will surely find people in your environment, who find the simplest things too complex and who suffer dealing with the easiest problems. For example, they fail to come to their work on time, complain that they have to take the child to a kindergarten and have a lot to do at home… They have difficulty with all of their duties. And the only thing that brings them pleasure is to please themselves.
You know very well that life is not an amusement park; it is not mere pleasure. So prepare the child for real life.
How do you know that you’re trapped?
- You are burdened with some simple things and duties and therefore you try to protect yourself and the child.
- You think that the child will be disappointed not to have another expensive toy.
- Making the child behave well will hurt his/her feelings, in your opinion.
- The request to take the rubbish away (make the bed, place the toys in their places, sit with the younger brother, or go to a shop) seems to disappoint the child.
- If you often wonder whether the child is not burdened with some routine business and make every effort to protect him/her from household duties, you’re trapped.
How does the child behave?
The child is spoiled; if he/she cannot achieve the desired, the reaction may be too violent; the child finds it difficult to accept the fact that his/her needs are not met instantly. Communicating with peers, the child is reserved, unsure of himself, capricious and dependent.
The child has no idea how to behave in the most common situations. He has a tense relationship with peers, may be intolerant and self-centered, can lack independence or face the problem of authority recognition or low efficiency. The child finds it difficult to control his impulsive nature (aggression, dissatisfaction and so on). In addition, he avoids responsibility, always blames someone else: a teacher in the kindergarten or school, a friend or even you…).
Why setting limitations for children is useful
- Do not make the simplest things excessively important. Do not protect children from what they should not be protected.
- From an early age – a year or more – start teaching your child the rules of good behavior. Let the child know such words as “thank you”, “please”, “excuse me.”
- Your expectations should be appropriate to the child’s age. Of course, a one-year-old kid will find it difficult to understand what is happening, but with time he will master the norms of behavior. At the age of three or four years, the child can already develop patience. A child of four or five years can be taught not to interrupt adults, for example, when adults are having a conversation.
- Gradually increase the permissible level of the child’s tolerance to a variety of troubles. Of course, you cannot train patience in a breastfed baby, making it cry of hunger. A two-year-old child can already be explained why he will get a chocolate bar after lunch rather than before it. A four-year-old child should be demanded to apologize if he offends anyone and can be asked to collect his scattered toys after the game. A child of eight years can take out the garbage, a ten-year-old child can go to the nearest grocery store, at twelve years a child can wash dishes and sit with the younger sister, while parents are not at home and so on.
- As an adult, you are responsible for ensuring that certain rules are followed at home. It is unacceptable for a child at the age of two to five years whose freedom is cherished by both parents to decide what he will put on, what he wants for lunch, how he will behave and what rules he will follow. You can really offer freedom to the child, but within a certain choice: “Do you want to wear a red or blue sweater?” or “What do you want for dinner – sausages or burgers?”
- React to inappropriate behavior immediately. Do not hide behind excuses like “he’s just hyperactive” or “she’s such a fidget, I can’t do anything with her”. Letting the children decide for themselves how they behave and what rules they follow at the age of five or six (or more) years does not mean protecting their freedom. This means confusing them and rendering a disservice. Teenagers of 14-15 years cannot decide for themselves when they will come back from a late walk. Talk, listen to the child’s arguments and share your point of view. Reach a common solution and insist that the child stick to it.
- Let the child of an appropriate age take over a part of household chores in addition to school affairs.
- Praise your child for every manifestation of independence. Even if the dishes are washed not without flaws, do not comment on it: there is still plenty of time to fix everything.
Disappointing or not?
Let’s go back to those examples described in the beginning. If the mother had not bought another doll for her daughter, this would not have traumatized the child. Yes, the girl would certainly feel upset, but resisting the child’s unrealistic demands does not mean injuring him/her seriously.
One could try to explain to the daughter that the doll she wanted was too expensive. And if other girls mocked at her because of that, they could be not so good friends. Of course, a serious conversation will not please the child as much as a new toy would, but the girl will get the information about real life, which she is so carefully protected from.
Having the ability to choose the “menu”, Alex is not able to take advantage of his freedom because of his age. Instead, he is lost and confused. At the age of two or three years, the child would be satisfied with the freedom of adequate choice: “What do you want: scrambled eggs or a sandwich?”