A parent asked me in a recent workshop, “When can we expect them to KNOW what we are teaching them? When do they get it?”
As I have been reminded A LOT in the last month, young children require a lot of parenting to learn how to be respectful, responsible, and fun to be around. This lesson seems to be one I have to learn again and again…and again! It’s as thought I go into each day wishing that today will be the day that my children just “get it”, and don’t need my reminder and responses to teach them. Unfortunately, that is not a very realistic (or helpful) way to approach each day – especially with a 3 and 5-year-old. Instead, I am reminded that they really do need my help and consistent (and sometimes it feels like constant) guidance, to learn to be a pleasant/well-mannered human. It doesn’t happen over night. It’s our consistent holding of clear boundaries, and reminding them to say “Thank you”, or following through on a consequence when they are not being respectful, that will have the pay off down the road of them learning characteristics I want them to have in adulthood.
Love and Logic has a thing they call the “V of love”, which helps me to know that even though my children haven’t fully “gotten it” yet, they will. Sylvia Rimm, PhD is a Psychologist who explains this very well.
“Envision the letter V in Love. When children are small, they’re at the base of the V with few choices, little freedom, and small responsibilities that match their small size. As they mature, they should have more choices, more freedom, and more responsibilities. Freedom and responsibility should increase concurrently. Although limits remain, more freedom is provided. Children will feel trusted and healthfully empowered. If you reverse that V like this, L, and children are given too many early choices and freedoms, they will believe they should have all the choices.”
So today, if you are feeling tired by the work it requires to stay patient, give reminders of good manners, and other ways in which you hold boundaries for your child – remember that it WILL be worth it down the road. The consistency you provide now will pay off in terms of having a teenager who has a firm foundation of respect, responsibility and kindness. And I KNOW I will want those foundations firmly laid in order to handle the new aspects of parenting that are involved in the teen years.