Children demanding little monsters or demanding genuine attention
“It’s not a bad thing that children should occasionally
and politely put parents in their place.”
As parents we all wish we could find some way to guide our children and support their development until they become all they can be. We try to find rules, maybe “father knows best” formulas, or swing to the opposite extreme with over-pampering or compensating for the lacks we had in our upbringings. Unfortunately, for all these hit and miss efforts, we find our children are becoming more and more demanding or uncontrollable.
The truth is our children live in a world inundated by information. This onslaught of information though educational, has brought to our awareness a deluge of possible threats and as a result, more fears. When we were young, we didn’t have GPS tags on our sneakers, weren’t strapped into baby seats, and weren’t wiped down with antibacterial wipes every five minutes.
Since our communication age has gifted our children with adult information and communication skills, our old ways of speaking to them in “should and musts”, or in any authoritarian way at all, tends to confuse them.
What children actually see are adults expressing their desires to do different things and then going ahead and doing them. Adults eat when they want, go to bed when they want, and if an adult doesn’t want to go and visit a relative or friends; they don’t. Adults aren’t made to feel this is wrong behavior. Children, on the other hand really can’t understand why they “should” go to a relative’s house when they don’t want to. They don’t understand why they are “wrong” for having desires and personal preferences, just like their parents.
There isn’t a life form on the planet that doesn’t know instinctively what’s good or not for its survival. The question is: Do we really take the time to respect our children’s preferences, or do we impatiently rush in with set rules, bribes and coddles that make them conform to our preferences or what suits us? Do we do this with our friends and colleagues? Do we bribe or coddle or set unreasonable rules down with our friends or do we sit down and listen to what our friend wants, imagine a solution together, and alter or change plans that serve everyone concerned?
We teach our children to behave in certain ways we believe will make them accepted members of society. But, if we take a short trip around the world (done with a click of a mouse nowadays) we see that every culture and society has a list of demands for social acceptance. Do we really want to teach our children to contort themselves into images society will accept? Do we want our children to be slaves of approval, either ours or our culture’s?
What it comes down to is that our children are putting us on the spot. Today’s children know when we are not paying true attention to the ?little individuals in process,” they are becoming. They reveal our slavery to the approval of others. They instinctively know this isn’t right. They are becoming more and more demanding and manipulative because they know they can manipulate our unconsciousness. They know we are fast asleep in mechanical behavior when we give them rules out of a can. On top of it all, they feel ignored when they realize they are capable of manipulating us with their unreasonable demands. They feel shame when accepting bribes they don’t deserve.
All this happens for one reason only: lack of attention. Our children just want our full attention. They want real “listening.” They want us (for whatever short period of time it takes for them to state their desire), to give them a genuine response. They want their “in-process individualities” to have a say and to express their desires without feeling wrong in having them. Once a child is heard, they might be more willing to listen.
Associations between parental control and children’s overt and relational aggression
by: Sofie Kuppens, Hans Grietens, Patrick Onghena, Daisy Michiels
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, Vol. 27, No. 3., pp. 607-623.
Comic: Tima Vlasto (c)