|1. We expect children to be able to do
things before they are ready.
We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit
still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room. In all of these
situations, we are being unrealistic. We are setting ourselves
up for disappointment and setting up the child for repeated
failures to please us. Yet many parents ask their young children
to do things that even an older child would find difficult. In
short, we ask children to stop acting their age.
2. We become angry when a child fails to meet our
A child can only do what he can do. If a child cannot do
something we ask, it is unfair and unrealistic to expect or
demand more, and anger only makes things worse. A 2-year-old can
only act like a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old cannot act like a
10-year-old, and a 10-year-old cannot act like an adult. To
expect more is unrealistic and unhelpful. There are limits to
what a child can manage, and if we don't accept those limits, it
can only result in frustration on both sides.
3. We mistrust the child's motives.
If a child cannot meet our needs, we assume that he is being
defiant, instead of looking closely at the situation from the
child's point of view, so we can determine the truth of the
matter. In reality, a "defiant" child may be ill,
tired, hungry, in pain, responding to an emotional or physical
hurt, or struggling with a hidden cause such as food allergy.
Yet we seem to overlook these possibilities in favor of thinking
the worst about the child's "personality".
4. We don't allow children to be children.
We somehow forget what it was like to be a child ourselves,
and expect the child to act like an adult instead of acting his
age. A healthy child will be rambunctious, noisy, emotionally
expressive, and will have a short attention span. All of these
"problems" are not problems at all, but are in fact
normal qualities of a normal child. Rather, it is our society
and our society's expectations of perfect behavior that are
5. We get it backwards.
We expect, and demand, that the child meet our needs - for
quiet, for uninterrupted sleep, for obedience to our wishes, and
so on. Instead of accepting our parental role to meet the
child's needs, we expect the child to care for ours. We can
become so focused on our own unmet needs and frustrations that
we forget this is a child, who has needs of his own.
6. We blame and criticize when a child makes a mistake.
Children have had very little experience in life, and they
will inevitably make mistakes. Mistakes are a natural part of
learning at any age. Instead of understanding and helping the
child, we blame him, as though he should be able to learn
everything perfectly the first time. To err is human; to err in
childhood is human and unavoidable. Yet we react to each
mistake, infraction of a rule, or misbehavior with surprise and
disappointment. It makes no sense to understand that a child will
make mistakes, and then to react as though we think the child
should behave perfectly at all times.
7. We forget how deeply blame and criticism can hurt a
Many parents are coming to understand that physically hurting
a child is wrong and harmful, yet many of us forget how painful
angry words, insults, and blame can be to a child who can only
believe that he is at fault.
8. We forget how healing loving actions can be.
We fall into vicious cycles of blame and misbehavior, instead
of stopping to give the child love, reassurance, self-esteem,
and security with hugs and kind words.
9. We forget that our behavior provides the most potent
lessons to the child.
It is truly "not what we say but what we do" that
the child takes to heart. A parent who hits a child for hitting,
telling him that hitting is wrong, is in fact teaching that
hitting is right, at least for those in power. It is the parent
who responds to problems with peaceful solutions who is teaching
his child how to be a peaceful adult. So-called problems present
our best opportunity for teaching values, because children learn
best when they are learning about real things in real life.
10. We see only the outward behavior, not the love and
good intentions inside the child.
When a child's behavior disappoints us, we should, more than
anything else we do, "assume the best". We should
always assume that the child means well and is behaving as well
as possible considering all the circumstances (whether obvious
or unknown to us), together with his level of experience in
life. If we always assume the best about our child, the child
will be free to do his best. If we give only love, love
is all we will receive.