Being a parent is full of mysteries. Sometimes our children’s behavior is truly mystifying. And sometimes (though not always) it’s in response to our own behavior. Here are 4 ways we parents are confusing kids.
We hear the phrase “children are resilient” all the time. It’s true and it’s a good thing. However, it’s also true that children are vulnerable and their security and well-being depend upon our behavior. The behavior of their parents.
No one ever has been, is, or will be a perfect parent. Nor do we need to pretend to model perfection because that only teaches our children that some image is more important than the state of the heart. However, it can’t be denied that certain qualities in parents produce certain qualities in children.
To pretend otherwise is simply unreality.
Lately life has been stressful at home and I can clearly see where my own behavior has contributed to this. When there are homefront shifts and children become confused, they will often act out in disobedience or insecurity. These behaviors are annoying and tiresome and we parents often respond in a way that completely interrupts the happy cycle.
So, let’s get to it. Here are four ways we are actually confusing our children.
1. Not doing what you say
Young children have not yet learned that some people say one thing and do another. If you say something, they expect you will do it. If you consistently say one thing and do another they become confused. Can they trust you? Should they even listen to what you say? Will you really follow through?
A child feels safe when they know what to expect. If you say one thing and follow through, they know they can trust your word. If you say one thing and do another, they never know what to expect. You can bet their behavior will reflect their lack of trust in you and your word. And you won’t like this type of behavior.
Read: Consistency matters
2. Tossing to and fro
Nothing says we have to keep to a routine that doesn’t work. Sometimes a change is as good as a vacation. But there’s a difference in being spontaneous and tossing to and fro with the waves. One’s home need not be full of rules, but if you do have house rules they should be followed consistently. If hitting, biting or kicking are forbidden on Monday they should be forbidden on Tuesday.
If you allow something one day, then yell and scream at the kids for doing it the next, they’ll be confused and anxious to upset you. Children thrive in routine and steadiness (no matter what your routine is) so constant changing leaves children confused and unable to anticipate what happens next. If you find they are not good transitioning from one thing to the next, it’s probably because they feel they are constantly surprised.
3. Intense outbursts
Lately, my patience has been tried. We’ve had big changes, weather changes, health changes, impending birth changes (for me), and the children are still adjusting. I’m tired and when I’m tired I am (this close) to having a meltdown all the time. I blame pregnancy. I probably shouldn’t.
A few times over the past few days I’ve tried to maintain my patience and calm and then, when felt tried to my limit, had an intense outburst with the kids. Sure, maybe they “deserved it.” But I’ll tell you this, it confused them. They weren’t sure how I could be calm one minute then yelling like a lunatic (into the sky) the next.
They became slightly standoffish and then kept asking, “Mommy, are you happy? Are you happy now?” Yes, I know anger and frustration are parts of life, but if we are consistently (I’m not talking a one off here) flying off the handle with the kids they will be confused, anxious, and insecure.
Read: Why you shouldn’t stuff your emotions
4. Too many cooks in the kitchen
As the holidays approach you’ll probably find there are many more people around the kids and who have an opinion on their behavior. That’s normal. We all have opinions! Kids are used to their parents disciplining them, correcting them, or giving the instructions to obey. They’re probably used to their grandparents doing this as well.
Read: Time In Vs. Time Out … and is Time Out Damaging Kids?
But just because someone is an adult does not mean that person is allowed to boss your kids around. And, just because your kids don’t listen to that person who bossed them around doesn’t mean they are rude. They are simply confused. Why should they listen to Great Aunt Ida when they barely know her? Why should they listen to the cranky lady in the grocery store when they’ve never seen her before? Answer: they shouldn’t.
If you see that people are all trying to help you parent and it’s confusing the kids, gently tell them it’s okay, you’ve got it covered. Your kids will thank you.
Which one of these do you struggle with the most?
Hi Rachel — thank you so much for all your uplifting posts and resources. I have an infant and a toddler, and found myself really discouraged early on, but your ideas and parenting philosophy have made me excited to be a mom at this stage. In fact, your blog is the only window that stays open permanently on my browser. I reference it constantly! And you never seem to run out of new content. I absolutely love this community.