Oh I hear you, story of my life, and what I had to learn was about why was I having this problem.
I recall when I was little, that the consequence for not doing as you were told, either ended up with yelling and even a slap. My mum was a hot head and didn’t cope well when things were out of her control. A reflection of her “shark music” – that sound track of childhood.
When life is chaotic
Life could be quite chaotic, because sometimes we could do things in our own time, and other times it had to be done right then and a specific way. The problem is, that little kids then don’t know how to BE. We (like all children in a similar environment) lived in a constant low-level anxiety, because we didn’t know which version was going to be with us.
One of the things I now appreciate is that there were quite confused boundaries. What that meant is that there was a lack of consistency, and we certainly weren’t allowed to express any challenge when we tried to argue for the apparent unfairness of getting into trouble, when we did the same thing the other day and didn’t get into trouble.
So what are HEALTHY Boundaries and why are they important?
Healthy boundaries are created by knowing where the edges of our world are, and being ok to express that boundary, while also accepting that another person might have a different one.
Little kids have no concept of personal space or other people’s wants. They aren’t interested, don’t have the skills to accommodate intrinsically and it’s not their job.
The way they learn is to have other people’s boundaries, particularly ours, to bump up against. That’s how they get to self-actualise, ie form their own identity by expressing their boundaries and learning where other’s are.
That’s where I notice lots of challenges, is differentiating healthy boundaries, from permissive or authoritarian ones. Ie where either the child is more than, or the parent is more than.
Instead, healthy boundaries include accepting our child’s boundaries, through validating their expression, even when we can’t or don’t want to meet that wish.
Sometimes it’s not easy, especially with really young children, because they have no capacity to be patient, to understand. No common sense, so logic and reasoning doesn’t work. Their mission is look out for themselves. That is not an indication of being thoughtless, (well kind of is, though completely developmentally appropriate), or narcissistic (at least not in the traditional sense, all children are narcissistic in the beginning, because they can’t protect themselves in any other way then to make sure that those around them look out for them).
Gosh, mother nature knows the behaviour is opportunity for development, so gives mothers hormones that cause them to love their baby, even though they might be a demanding little apparent tyrants.
If we responded to a babies behaviour the same way that we might respond to a similarly demanding adult, their lives would probably be really short.
Development – it’s a long Game.
It’s accepting that there is a long development journey between birth and adulthood, and that skills arrive when they are relevant to their life and their size and capabilities. It’s why they don’t get logic and reasoning skills until they are practically adult sized, when they could potentially look after themselves. Until then they are reliant on outside help, and that’s our job. Not to treat them as if they are stupid, and much rather to support them to be building awareness so that when they have the software, they know how to use it.
Until then, it’s up to us to create an environment where they want to follow our instructions and guidance. That we earn their trust through being trustworthy. That is being the wiser and kinder humans that we are supposed to be as parents. The ones to know that a two year-old might want to stay up all night, but isn’t the best decision. Or the three year old who wants to boss you around, well that’s far too much responsibility for a three year old to have, even when it seems like that’s what they want.
It’s important though to avoid squashing those characteristics, because they will be needed and of value as they grow older, it’s just they don’t have the skills yet to use that trait.
You could think about is like giving your 15 yo and muscle car, and then expecting them to be master drivers. It’s just not that likely. They need time to build the skills and experience to be able to control the car and all it’s capability.
Well us humans are similar. We have to build up to that level of mastery. When you consider that a fully-fledged adult is achieved between 24-28.
What percentage of the journey is your child at? worth considering when reflecting about appropriate expectations.
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Author – Leanne G Wakeling – Relationship and Communication Coach, Parenting Mentor, Behaviour and Thinking Styles Profiler.