Your Children Are Not The Center Of The Universe! (Episode 260)
Ah, children. They believe the world revolves around them. Think about it - it only makes sense, when they are just discovering the world! As our children approach everything with first-time eyes, it's directly related to what revolves around them. We celebrate every discovery and step forward they make, and they delight and amuse us with their antics. Yet eventually, that grace fades and we can end up with these tiny demanding dictators who are taking over everything.
Time and time again I hear from parents who feel they are slaves to their children - bedtime battles, food battles, everything is met with protest. Or, whether they are aware of it or not, others cringe when their kids come around due to how little their children recognize their impact on others.
Have your children's demands gotten out of hand? Do they recognize the impact they have on others?
****Keep in mind that the blog below is a complement to the podcast - we share some additional content on the podcast, so listen in, and then share with a friend!****
Perspective Is Gained Over Time
It doesn't have to be that we tiptoe around our children's crazy. Please keep in mind that, while we may have all the desires to allow our children to grow and flow on their own, just giving them the space to be with no guidelines is also working under the assumption that they are rationally thinking adults with discernment and maturity...which so often comes from age and experience. We can't expect a four-year-old to know what coping options there are when they are upset - and that's a gift we as parents can give them.
They don't know what they don't know. Remember, children act out because they lack the tools to navigate the emotion any differently. So as you open up the world to your children, it's important that you're addressing the tools for life skills beyond just giving them space to figure it out on their own.
The key is not to just lay down the law in an authoritarian way, but to clearly communicate not only the "what" is going to happen, but the "why". And consistency is key!
Get Real With What Is
As we look at the reality of what is not working in our home, we start by simply addressing what's not going well, and how it makes us all act/react/feel.
If we haven't all clearly communicated the reality of what is, and not everyone is on the same page, it's going to be hard to incite the positive shifts you want. So first and foremost, it needs to be clear about what actions are not serving family members well.
Maybe it's hitting siblings, or yelling. Maybe it's obsessing over the TV and being on screens all the time. Maybe it's an overall lack of respect for others in the home.
What is it doing to the energy in your home? How is everyone reacting because of it? How would it feel if this were eliminated?
What's the reality of what is going on and how it's working for your home life?
This video I did back in 2017 and it still applies - check it out:
Bathtub of Boundaries
Security comes to your child by more than just a blanket. Although our kids may cling to their favorite lovey or toy, the real security comes from you, their parent. And it’s not just by hugs and kisses on boo-boos, but by boundaries.
Boundaries, you say? How can I be loving to my kid by saying “no, no, no”? I say you can be firm in where you stand, be strict in what is necessary, and end up having a “yes, yes, yes” world for your child.
Let me explain. Imagine you are stranded in the middle of the ocean with no land in site—it’s a scary thought. A vast sea is overwhelming to anyone, much less a small child where the world is huge anyway. Think about all the dangers, possibilities, opportunities, and curiosities there are to explore in this world. It’s daunting and overwhelming…about like trying to find a needle in a haystack (or a box of cereal in the cereal aisle). But a small bathtub is a world of fun. In a bathtub, your child can be in charge of her own sea—from one end to the other. She knows what’s all around her—she knows where the water comes from, she knows who is sitting by the side of the bathtub while she plays.
When you have a toddler who is learning independence, the world is even more of a daunting ocean—your child needs you for assurance. If I walk out of mommy’s sight, what will happen? If I throw the cup on the floor, does it disappear? If I hit daddy, is it funny? If I don’t want to go, will Mommy leave me?
Think about that last question. How many times do you play a trick on your child with reverse psychology?
“I don’t want to go!’
“Okay, fine, bye- I'm leaving then!”
Which then proceeds to a melt-down of:
“Don’t leave me!”
Will you really leave him? Can you reasonably leave a child in the middle of a crowded store? What lesson does it teach that child? If I have a different opinion from Mom, and she doesn’t like it, she’s gone. What security does that instill?
Instead, if they know what their choices are, and the consequences that come from those choices, they in essence have a “fence” of security…much like being able to see the walls of the bathtub.
Mommy makes the boundary and I’m in control of the choices I make inside it.
Security is in knowing what is allowed and what isn’t. Your child can have the world…but can they handle it?
That is where you come in. You help monitor that world a little at a time. You allow them to play loose in the yard, knowing they can go anywhere in the yard within the boundaries you laid out with them. They are king of their universe…and you are the castle they come home to. You see, the more you help them lay out what is allowed and what isn’t, the more you are able to say “yes!” to their world. They know not to touch the outlets or hit their sister. They also know that their playroom is their domain and the backyard is subject to all the exploration they want.
Security comes by loving your child enough to be firm in your rules, even when they are not loving back to you.
Security is knowing your little girl won’t run out in the street because she knows the consequence—it’s the same consequence you’ve given her every time.
Security is your little boy knowing he is in control of whether he has a grumpy day or a happy day (remember only YOU are in charge of your attitude!), and no matter whether he likes it or not, you will NOT leave without him. He can simply choose whether he’ll be happy about that.
Security is your child knowing that you expect respect because you give THEM respect. It’s being firm in where you stand, but always stopping to truly listen to what they feel.
Break It Down For Me
So as we break it down, how can you move toward creating boundaries in your home where everyone is respectful of their impact on the rest of the household?
- Get real with what is going on. (Our nighttimes have gotten pretty stressful! We are often cranky and fighting. How does it feel for you?)
- Clearly communicate what is going to happen. (We have done all our before bedtime things. Now I’m going to read you a book, give you your goodnight kiss, and it’s time for bed – no more getting up.)
- Explain the “why” behind it. (It’s important for your body to rest so you don’t get sick and you are ready to play tomorrow. And now is time for Mommy and Daddy to talk and connect so we are refreshed and ready to be there for you in the morning!)
- Consistency is key. (Stay strong in your decision - and this is why it's important to start small. Only do a day, or a week - don't make a year-long commitment. You can give them love and support, but if you are not confident and waffle, it’s game over. They will lose confidence and trust in you. Repeat, repeat, repeat.)
Give them the foundation—the rules, the consequences, and your unconditional love, no matter whether they decide to break the rules or follow them. Then give them wings to explore their world—to say yes five times more than you need to say no—to only say no when absolutely necessary (and be prepared to stand firm), and say yes to all the days in the mud, the days of dressing themselves, and the moments when they truly ARE superhumans.
She’ll outgrow her favorite teddy bear. He’ll hang up his blanket cape. But they will find and develop their security in you—make it count for a foundation that shares with them the reality of life and equips them with the tools (and sanctuary) to navigate it!