Three years ago, my eldest daughter attended her friend’s birthday party. I was busy attending to my other children when the mother handed my daughter a piece of cake. I asked my daughter, “Did you say, ‘Thank you’?” My daughter said yes, she had. But the mother interjected with, “Meh, they’re kids. Kids don’t need to have manners.” I was quite taken aback. I’ve never been a supporter of the saying, “kids will be kids.” I have three young children and I believe that children are a lot more capable than we all realize. If we set low expectations for children, we get low results. But when we see them as little people who can be taught how to be kind and considerate, then their future prospects will be so very different.
Here are 10 reasons why parents should sometimes treat their kids as adults.
The phrase “kids will be kids” is often used as a justification for misbehavior. For example, a child pushes in front of the line to get to the playground slide and someone comments, “kids will be kids.” As much as young children’s brains are developing, they still have the ability to learn what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
If we, as parents, believe that “John needs to realize that it is not okay to push in front of the line,” then chances are, our child will start to understand this too. It’s about setting boundaries and teaching them etiquette rules that will be useful for the rest of their life.
Children shouldn’t grow up stress-ridden, but they need to learn the basics of being responsible. For example, as adults, we might have children or pets to look after. We have housework to do. We have food to cook. If we let our children help with some of these activities, they will learn that responsibilities are a part of life. If you encourage your child to make their bed every day, to help wash up after dinner, to feed the pet goldfish, then you are teaching them that success happens when people work together.
For many of us, being told “Oh, you wouldn’t understand” would leave us feeling quite hurt, offended, or angry. For children, their reaction would probably be similar. But If you challenge your children and give them the opportunity to prove themselves, then you’re basically telling them, “I believe in you. I think you’re capable.” If you’re anxious about your child doing the dishes and never ask them to, then you’re depriving yourself and them of the chance to prove that they can. But if you give them that chance, they might even start doing extra housework you never asked them to do.
Teaching your children empathy is one of the most important skills you can pass on. In a world where competition and power can often override caring about others, it is essential to focus our parenting on kindness. Rather than looking at our kids and thinking, “They’re too young to understand how other people feel,” teach them to know how others are feeling. If your young child hears another child crying, make a comment, “Aww, that girl is crying. She must be feeling sad. I hope she is okay.” In addition to this, acknowledge and validate your own child’s feelings.
If you, the parent, believe in your child, then chances are they will believe in themselves too. As adults, we know that life is filled with ups and downs. We know that sometimes there are setbacks that leave us struggling to get back up. If you encourage your child and value who they are, they are very likely to feel the same about themselves. They will feel confident about who they are and use that confidence to get them through life.
We parents often depend on what we believe parenting should be. For some, being a parent is simply about protecting their child. For others, it’s about preparing their child for the future. Striking a balance between the two is probably more ideal. Rather than trying to protect your children from all pain and suffering, do your best to help them cope with any future pain and suffering. If they don’t win a prize in pass-the-parcel, don’t be in a hurry to tell the parents to find one for your child. Let them learn how to deal with pain. Let them prove to themselves that they are strong and can cope with disappointment. As an adult, this resilience will help them immensely in all areas of their life.
If you’re walking through the supermarket with your young child and they’re screaming for a chocolate bar, don’t feel pressured into buying it for them. As difficult as it is to resist the temptation to keep them quiet, you need to believe that your child is capable of calming down without it. Your child will learn to better self-regulate their emotions and start to realize that you can’t always get what you want in life.
You might see fathers work on their cars with their kids. You might see mothers cooking with their children. You might see either mother or father sharing their hobbies and interests with their young children. Doing “things that adults do” with your child helps them realize that life isn’t about being on your own—it’s about experiencing the journey of life with other people. This is an important lesson to teach your child because surrounding themselves with a supportive network of people will help them get through the challenges of life. They will have people to count on, people they can trust, people who make their lives better.
When we sometimes look at our kids as adults, they are more likely to feel that they are just like everyone else. Their age doesn’t mean that they don’t matter. Their thoughts and opinions are not any less important or valid. Let your child voice their thoughts on controversial topics. Let them express the individual that they are without censoring them completely. By seeing your child for who they are, rather than what you want them to be, you’re reminding them that they matter.
Most parents want to raise children who grow up being happy and successful. They don’t want much for them, aside from knowing that they are living a life that makes them happy and that they are utilizing their talents. When your kids tell you what they want to be when they grow up, don’t dismiss them. Don’t laugh. Encourage them and their dreams—even if those dreams are likely to change many times in a year. When you treat your children like adults, their thirst for knowledge increases. They might just understand and believe you when you say that they really can make a difference. That they are not just one person in this world. They are actually one person who has the potential to change the world.
Featured photo credit: Grand Velas Riviera Maya via flickr.com
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