Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

Your Young Child Is Not Your “Friend”

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Your young child is not your “friend”!  

 

My son was not my “friend” in his growing up years. He wasn’t always happy with my role as a “take charge” parent, and the decisions that I made, but we survived! More than that, our roles now are quite wonderful and different. We have a friendship of mutual love, trust, and respect. When he was young, I structured my role, as did, his dad, to be determined to be responsible parents, even if, our son didn’t always like how we handled things.

My son, as an adult now, is my friend! It hasn’t always been that way. When he was growing up I loved him to the moon and back but with all my education and experience I knew my important functional role at the time was to be his parent and not his “friend”. It wasn’t always easy. I wanted him to be happy and to like me, but I, also, wanted more for him: to mature into a responsible, moral, intelligent, emotionally secure person. I am happy to say that all is well that ends well! 

Parents and kids are genetically geared to love each other, and it is truly a beautiful thing. There is a purely emotional part of the parent/child relationship and there is also a functional role to parenting. The emotional side reflects a mother’s love when she holds, feeds, and bathes her infant. One without the other would be harmful to the child. If the child was only loved as an infant, and the functional aspects were at risk, the child would be harmed and neglected. Functional care without love would have long term negative effects on a child’s emotional development. These two parenting roles go hand in hand, and one shouldn’t be emphasized the cost of the other.

As kids get older, the parent’s role tends to become more functional, and less emotional which is hard for parents who, especially, want to be their kids’ best “friend”. As part of the functional role that is needed as children grow, limits must be set. Limit setting is very healthy. It’s how  kids learn how to figure out what’s safe and what’s not, what’s appropriate, and what’s not. This functional role changes for parents as kids gets older. With a one year old, it’s changing diapers. With a seven year old, the functional role involves getting homework done correctly. With a sixteen year old, it involves a curfew.

I think it’s very important to mention here that you as a great, responsible parent who definitely has both the functional and emotional role intact, to consider that there is another necessary step in raising your youngsters. The key to fostering the greatest relationship with your children is having a sound rapport with your kids during the growing years. For some examples: Homework must be done. Support of teachers and classroom rules is a given….and your kids expect no less from you while not always liking the demands put on them. That’s the type of mutual understanding you need to have with your youngsters so when they’re all grown up you all can, and will enjoy the most wonderful friendship you could ever imagine. It’s worth waiting for!

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Leaders in the Making

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Observing my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter playing with her friends during a recent visit, made something very clear to me: 3 and 4 year old children are born leaders in the making. Although their sometimes strong wills can exhaust moms and dads, they are natural leaders in the making when it comes to decision making.  These youngsters are opinionated, bossy, and they know what they want and when they want it – even if it’s chocolate milk for every meal. Their overbearing, demanding nature, if channeled appropriately, can help them grow into confident adults that others look up to.

So how do you direct your future CEO? The most important and helpful strategy is to provide kids at this age with choices whenever possible. “Would you like pizza or mac & cheese for lunch?” “Do you want to clean up the playroom before or after dinner?” Making these small decisions helps kids FEEL more in control while not really being IN control. As we all know that Master or Miss Assertive are happiest when they can call all the shots.

Leaders in the making also think outside of the sandbox. Painting on the coffee table instead of on the paper provided, or digging up mom’s flowers and giving them as a gift, may not seem like acts of genius, but 3 and 4 year olds have their own unique way of looking at life. They are individuals without inhibitions and are abounding with creativity. The best possible outlet for their passion is to provide a “free to create space” of your choosing that can handle the best and quickest clean-up possible. Your creative youngsters then can express themselves without causing lasting damage. Most importantly, these unrestrained moments of creative play give your young ones the independence they really desire. They also provide kids with the vehicle to build their confidence, and helps them to settle down when it’s time to do other things, or to calm down, especially, before  bedtime.

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