I recognized these character traits in many kids when I taught in public elementary and middle schools years ago, and it’s no surprise to me that it hasn’t changed or is maybe even worse now than it was then. Along the same lines as an earlier post entitled “Silent Tragedy”, I don’t think any parent sets out for their child to acquire these traits. In my experience, most parents mean well and really want the best for their child, but just don’t realize how they might be harming their child’s development by parenting choices that they make. Parenting is a difficult job, and every child and family is different, but there are some essential elements of childhood development that parents must be aware of and understand in order to really provide what a child needs. It’s critical that parents provide the guidance that the child needs and not always just settle in the moment for what a child wants. As a parent myself, I will be the first to admit this is much easier said than done. But for the sake of our children, it must be done!
I agree with this author about what is happening with trends in childcare these days. As a daycare provider, I have seen many children and families come and go and have observed children who are being stressed out by parent behavior and children who succeed because of parent behavior. Nobody has all the right answers, but there are some things that become clearer to me with each passing year, and with each new child and family that I meet. All of the parents mean well and try really hard to raise their children well, but despite their efforts, many parents don’t realize just how much some of their behaviors are negatively affecting their child.
If we want children to become independent, we have to give them opportunities to make choices and understand the consequences (good and bad) of those choices. If we want them to become problem solvers, they need to be given opportunities to solve their own problems. We need to give the child language and examples on how to solve problems, but we can’t step in all of the time to solve the problem for them.
If we want children to have a positive self esteem, we need to give opportunities for them to do everything possible by and for themselves, and offer only “necessary” help. Then, praise can be given for real accomplishments, and guidance given to learn ways to cope with failures. The most important is not to be afraid to say “no” when what a child wants is not what the child needs. When you know that saying” no” will result in a tantrum, it’s tempting to give in to the child because you don’t want to put up with the tantrums. But this is what the child needs – clear and consistent boundaries and limits. Children also need opportunities to learn patience, build will power, and to delay gratification. They aren’t naturally wired to do this before the age of 3, but can learn it if given the opportunity. Oppositely, they will learn to develop a sense of entitlement if clear and consistent boundaries are not set.
Many parents don’t like to hear this from me, just as the author states about her experiences at the beginning of the article. I’m sure it sounds like I am being uncaring and mean to the child, but this is what the child needs; a parent and a guide, not a friend. Nobody wants to hear a child screaming and crying, of course. We automatically think surely this means that the child is stressed and hurt and we have to step in and help, and do something to get the crying to stop. But a crying child does not always need to be picked up or have all of his problems solved by an adult so that the crying stops. A crying child needs “necessary” help and a lot of guidance, and the opportunity to solve a problem, in order to resolve the crying, by himself. Sometimes this is just being given the opportunity to learn how to calm himself down in order to begin to talk about how to solve a problem together. I’m not saying a crying child should be ignored, and of course sometimes what the child needs is hugs and to be comforted physically. However, if we always step in, the child will always rely on an adult to solve his problems, and will never learn to do this for himself, which ultimately leads to insecurity, anxiety, lack of independence, and lack of self-esteem.
When a child is given what he needs he develops self control, self-esteem, independence, and a real sense of security so that he can go forward and explore the world without fear or anxiety. And then it is truly a joy to be a guide in their growth and development.
As an early childhood care provider I do feel pressure to be sure that children are learning every day. At the same time, I know that learning happens every day, no matter if it can be measured in any significant way or not, and no matter whether there are high quality interactions and materials provided or not. But obviously, with quality interactions, conversations, and developmentally appropriate books and materials provided, quality learning does happen every day, again, even though it cannot be quantitatively measured. This is what I strive to provide, and to achieve, as a “measure” of my own success, so to speak.
At such a young age (under 6 years), and arguably at any age, learning should really not be so measured. So I agree, we should stop trying to “make” everything educational, and just let “education” happen naturally through freedom of exploration and play. Children naturally want to learn about their world. Let’s be sure to let that happen naturally and not squander their natural love of learning by trying to “force” learning.
I am a teacher by profession, and I agree with Teacher Tom here, who shares his wisdom (and wisdom from Mister Rogers) about the volunteer parents caring for the children in his cooperative preschool. Give children freedom to learn through playing and trust the love and care that thoughtful parents bestow on all of the children in their own child’s community. This is a strong foundation for a lifetime love of learning.
“It’s love and play that form the foundation of a good education. Without that, the rest is worse than useless, it’s meaningless.”
The way this mother discusses the topic of toddlers “sharing” toys, is very much in line with the Montessori philosophy of “sharing” and the same that I strive to practice in my in-home daycare. Toddlers don’t really have a concept of “other” as far as feelings or emotions. They just aren’t capable of that right now. So, a toddler who doesn’t share is a “normal” toddler! It’s really fruitless to try to get toddlers to understand the concept of sharing this early in their development. And let’s face it – the idea of “sharing” in and of itself is not so simple. I talk to the children about their frustrations when another child takes something or has something that is desired, and help them to begin to understand, but demanding that your toddler (or someone else’s) “share” could be really damaging to them emotionally, rather than helpful or polite.
Even with a playroom full of toddlers (ages 13 months – 20 months) I am already talking myself through this process of helping some of the children to stand up for themselves, and helping some others feel secure enough to not be “bullies”. Stealing toys is what toddlers are supposed to do, just like throwing food from the high chair, and throwing toys over fences and gates, among many other fun behaviors for them that are annoying to you. It’s fruitless to administer time-outs, punish, or try to convince them that these behaviors can be hurtful. But, when aggressive behaviors continue, they can be hurtful to children who are younger, or not physically strong enough to prevent another child from taking a toy, or being physically dominant. This article focuses on what you can do to help the child who seems to be the “victim” day after day.
The most important part I took away was how to interpret or to understand what is behind the quietness or the crying, and how to help the “victims” learn to stand up for themselves, no matter how long it takes, without necessarily viewing other children as “bad”.
This is an important read, and essential philosophy for the way I run my in-home school. It breaks my heart to see any of the children in my care cry out in frustration or pain, or for any reason at all! But ultimately, my goal is for them to learn how to resolve conflicts on their own. Partly, it is how I will teach them and give them the language they can use to do this. But, in equal part is how they will decide and learn how to handle conflicts on their own. Given the opportunity, (really, multiple opportunities) children will surprise you on their ability to handle situations on their own, and be better for it, rather than looking for you to solve all of their conflicts. It’s not heartless to give them a chance to do this on their own!
Be assured. Your child is listening to you. I know how it doesn’t seem so, much of the time, but look at the examples of how your child is listening to you (and watching you) – by the way he imitates you. At least as a toddler, he is not capable of turning that on/off. Cherish the times he shows you the behaviors you want to see, and have patience to weather the storms of the testing/(“defiant”) behaviors.
Our attitude toward limit-pushing behavior is everything, and our perspective is what defines our attitude. Testing, limit-pushing, defiance and resistance are healthy signs that our toddlers are developing independence and autonomy.
When toddler behavior is driving you crazy?! It is critical for the adult to gain a perspective in a way that our toddlers can not… These days I am experiencing quite an adventure dealing with behavior of children of different (and early) ages and abilities. Although I have worked with all of these age groups separately, handling issues among children of these ages as a group has been quite challenging. Two are quick to hit, one screams almost as if having a tantrum when his own body cannot accomplish what his mind desires, the infants react to the screaming and crying by adding their own cries of distress, and they all are in a phase of taking each others’ toys.
It’s easier for me to help them learn and do what they need to, if I stay calm but confident and positive, and remember that all of these behaviors are normal. It seems like I am being tested, and I am. That’s what toddlers do! But, I need to be a model of peace and love if that’s how I expect them to be able to act. Limits do need to be set, but I try to remind myself to “teach” and not “punish”.
In the past few months since I have started my new in-home school I have recently experienced this with my toddlers. One of whom is my own… What to do what your toddler is stealing toys. Does this mean your child has a social disorder, or is this normal childhood development that needs simply to be guided and directed in a loving way? So far, for me, it could be both. Careful observation is essential. Children need opportunities to resolve conflicts on their own. The reality is though, if children are hurting each other for any reason, the adult needs to step in. I’m not sure what else could help the situation “naturally” resolve itself once it gets to this level. It does not necessarily indicate a “disorder” rather than a habit of behavior, that could be changed with consistent intervention. But in fact, in most cases toy-stealing does resolve itself, at least in my experiences so far. But, in the cases where children are being hurt or bullied, even at this young age, great suggestions are provided here, and I also follow these suggestions in my in-home school.