Friday, 20 February 2015

4 year olds are people too

When does "cheek" become "opinionated"?
Why are adults allowed to be in a bad mood or have a shit day, but children aren't?
Why are 4 year old's not allowed to show emotion, or worse still, express their emotion if it is not one of joy?
Why is letting them have their intense moment, then chatting about it after they calm down seen as permissive parenting, yet leaving them all alone with these big emotions either on the naughty step or behind a closed door viewed to be suitable punishment?
Why are strong willed children viewed negatively and as brats or wee devils, yet the same traits in adults are viewed as assertive, strong and in a positive manner?
Why are children forced to apologise and learn to give false platitudes, rather than learn empathy and sincerity?
What is so wrong with being genuine, authentic, overwhelmed at times with big emotions and being allowed to express them (safely) the only way you know how, until you are  mature enough to understand whats going on and have learned how to deal with situations in a more confident manner?
When someone is spoken to in a derogatory fashion/shouted or given 'a row' at work, why do they always say they were "spoken to as if I was a child"? Are children not people too? Do they not deserve to be spoken to with respect?
At what age does society stop talking to children 'like children' and start talking to them as people?

Being 4 is hard.

Kiddo is a very strong willed little boy; his stubborn streak is truly something to behold.  He will not be told what to do, unless he has an explanation as to why (even if he knows and understands, he will do it in his own time - which at times can be infuriating and others its no big issue).  Compliance to do as he is told "because I said so" just does not fly. He views all people as equals, there is no hierarchy in which he is lesser than you because 'you' are an adult. If you suggest something or say something he knows to be incorrect, he will call you on it and correct your information. My kid knows his own mind. And isn't afraid to share a piece of it with you!

This is part of his personality I love and am so protective of, it needs nurtured and refined but I'm hoping that this streak will serve him well as he is growing up and has to deal with peer pressures and  growing into a self assured and confident adult.  But it is not without its challenges. Parenting a strong willed child is bloody hard work. Kiddo and I have similar personalities in that we are both stubborn and usually always right *ahem, cough cough* (this particular gene comes from my Dad who is always "correct"), and when we go toe-to-toe it's proper arguments we have - my 4year old and I argue, and what he comes back with is, at times, (I'll admit)  hard to argue with. The boy has reasoning and sarcasm down pat. I hear what he says to his Dad or to me, and I know he has picked it up from spending so much time with me.  Hubby and I have often looked at each other and said "he's right!". And its annoying! It's frustrating! However, regardless of whether what he says is right or not, the tone used is often the bit that presents the challenge. This is where people will say "He's cheeky/I wouldn't put up with that/he's not talking to me like that/ he's grumpy/ or even one work colleague said to me after she ruffled his hair (don't mess with Kiddo's hair, especially if you haven't asked first - that's another thing, it is simply not okay to touch my child without asking him. It doesn't matter that you know me, he doesn't necessarily know you and will take issue with this - you will be left in no doubt that he is unhappy with you!) he's being a wee shit today, eh (with a conspiring nod)" - eh naw!
Now, hand ups up, sometimes I will give it " who exactly do you think you're talking to?"  ["yoou-oo"] or "Oi, you will not speak to me like that" ["well you're talking to me like that!"] and when he answers back as in the examples given, I do stop and think, right, how can I do this differently? First thing to address is my own tone - how can I possibly expect him to use an appropriate tone with me, if I don't use one with him? There is absolutely no point huffing, expelling a large sigh and flouncing off muttering " I can't be bothered with that", as this leaves him confused as to whats happening, and he learns nothing about what was wrong with this interaction.  Yes, sometimes I need to take a minute to collect myself, and give myself a 'time-out' usually in the kitchen or bathroom, just to breathe and calm down a bit.  What I don't do is put Kiddo on time-out/naughty step or any other version of that method ( we tried it a couple of times when he was younger but, honestly I think it's a terrible idea - just my opinion, I know many many parents who use it regularly.)
Why don't I use the naughty step? What does it actually achieve? As far as I can tell, kids sit there on their approved 'step' to think about their actions. Do they think about their actions - do they hell! They sit and stew about how unfair their situation is. Then after the aloted time, they are either told to say sorry for blah blah blah, or to come back when they have seen the error of their ways. This results in tears and (depending on age of child) possible anxiety at being left to sit by themselves, or they very quickly figure out that if they just say sorry, it's over with, and no more is said. Saying sorry is not worth the breath it comes out on if it is not sincere. They also learn about getting caught, which can make some kids sneaky; making sure they continue to do as they wish, without getting caught, but it's okay as all they have to do is say "I'm sorry!".
So if I don't use the naughty step what do I do? If Kiddo is angry, I let him get angry. It is a human emotion to feel anger, but it is vital to let it out and not suppress it. I stay close to him (he doesn't always want that, but he knows I'm near by when he needs me - which is always as soon as the steam has ran out, he comes over for a cuddle). If Kiddo is really angry, he cannot communicate, and instead grunts or screams and either turns his back on you (in which case back off) or lashes out.  I do not tolerate him hitting or hurting anyone.  If it is another child that he has hit, I make sure the other child is okay, and I apologise to the child : "Are you okay? I'm sorry Kiddo hurt you", and always apologise infront of Kiddo. I am genuinely sorry, and embarrassed, that another child has been hurt, and it is important for Kiddo to hear me apologise, and to understand what a genuine apology is. When he has calmed down the situation is addressed; it is impossible to communicate with a child mid-meltdown. It is my (or whomever is looking after him at that point) responsibility to keep him safe and let him feel his big emotions and then to let them go and move on.  We always talk about each situation afterwards, whether it be in the car, over dinner, as he has a bath or 5 mins after the 'event'.  The discussion about how he felt, what caused it, and mostly importantly, what he could do differently if he felt like that again.  It has to be Kiddo that comes up with the last solution as he is the one who has to try and remember to implement it when he feels angry and wants to hit someone who is annoying him.  This conversation is between me (or Hubby) and Kiddo. It is not for the ears of the person awaiting an apology from him.  Some times Kiddo will come to me on his own and chat about feelings, or come up and out the blue say he is sorry for something - once he has processed the event, and felt that an apology was required.  A real and sincere apology.


His latest idea was instead of hitting, he would turn around and wiggle his bottom.On Wednesday afternoon at one of our home-ed meets, this was exactly what I saw when I looked over to where the kids were playing : there was Kiddo shaking his bottom at his friends who were dissolving into giggles. It was hilarious! And it worked!

Now, I know that my son is no angel but by the same token, I don't believe angelic children exist.  There are always 2 sides to every story, and it pays to hear them.  This is something the woman in soft play may want to consider the next time she and her friend come stomping over to my table with 3 kids in tow complaining about Kiddo. Yes, I apologised that her daughter got hit by the chalk and then I promptly ignored the intimidation party as I had a crying 4 year old on my lap whom I was comforting and calming so that he was actually able to say what happened.  She strutted off outraged that my sobbing child was not made to apologise. We all get upset when our kids are wronged, but get some perspective, and remember it's never black and white.


This is a topic very close to my heart this week as we have just come out of a particularly tough week.  I try to keep calm (not very good at it, especially if tired) but I am a yeller. It is instinctive. I shout. Kiddo shouts - the apple really did not fall far from this particular tree. We have had a busy week with plenty going on and places to go.  This more often than not leads to melt down situations more readily than when we spread activities out over a longer period. Sometimes I will insist that he goes to places when, for what ever reason, he would rather not - it more often than not works in my favour as he has a blast once he's there, but sometimes I should listen to him when he resists.  Other times, I will follow his lead and not insist as it is not important - these are usually, but not always, the days that end up 3 hours later with, "I'm ready to go to...now" but it's too late. In these situations, yes, he is initially upset or unhappy but has learned a lesson in decision making.


Regularly I wish I could do-over certain scenarios from the day, whether it was because I didn't bite my tongue, or wished I hadn't shouted, or had a better comeback for another person's appraisal of Kiddo's behaviour, etc etc, but like everyone reading this, I am human. Not perfect. Not striving to be. Just trying to do the best I can raising my strong willed boy through the complexities of emotions and expectations to become a confident, emotionally stable, empathetic and kind man.  If that means parenting in a style swimming upstream against the majority, well, tough! Parenting respectfully does not mean parenting permissively. It means that we are honest and true with ourselves and each other - when I make a mistake ( which I do, regularly, for instance I caught myself the other day trying the clean up a spillage, Kiddo was dancing around my feet and was promptly told "get oot ma road!". Hardly respectful, I wouldn't speak like that to another adult, so why is Kiddo any different?) I will apologise to Kiddo. He knows that I am just a person like him, and we are allowed to make mistakes.  The thing is to learn from them.  And at 4 years, nearly 5 years old, he will make plenty mistake figuring it all out. Show me an adult, who on a bad day is not grumpy, snapped at a work colleague, yelled at the kids to hurry up, felt frustrated and just want to punch the next person that annoys them? Adults can go to the gym to work off the negative emotions, they can have a glass of wine, smoke a cigarette, vent to a friend, get angry and speak only in swear words (I can recommend that one), but a child in our society is not allowed to  be anything other than "good".
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