There’s something about having the opportunity to reflect on what you have been doing right and wrong as a parent. There isn’t a guide book on parenting because each child is uniquely different. We all want our children to grow and learn how to respect others. We expect them to do well according to the norms of society. However, that doesn’t always happen. Occasional temper tantrums are expected at all ages but children need to be taught how to express their emotions in healthy ways. Being positive can really have a long term effect on your relationship with your child, whether they are a toddler or a teenager.
Parents aren’t perfect, we’re still growing up too but we should be responsible. Responsible adults will more than likely have responsible children. If that is not the case, we can at least be comforted that we did our due diligence.
It’s an awesome experience for parents to watch their children develop when they are in pre-school through second grade. We post pictures of them playing and learning the basics in their primary colored classrooms. The occasional post will show up on social media with a child smiling broadly while holding a certificate of achievement.
In kindergarten, children learn how to be independent and want to do more things “by themselves.” For many children, it’s the first time being in an environment without having a family member nearby for a prolonged period of time. I believe that’s why grandparents and parents should volunteer in the classroom. It gives you a broader picture of what children in other family environments are like current day. We cannot compare our experiences to theirs unless we are present.
By the time second grade is almost over, you may have a child who enjoys hands-on projects and wants to play board games or try their hand at perfecting tasks like putting puzzles together. They seek encouragement from teachers and parents. Ah, the wonderment of school and learning before reality hits.
The Big Change
Between third and fourth grade, you begin to see what path your child is taking. Are they getting in trouble? Are they struggling with concepts? Are they working on schoolwork on the weekends? Are you providing them with additional learning opportunities? Are you looking for free events so that children can practice their skills in the real world. Some behaviors need to be addressed immediately and others you just monitor. Behavioral issues may have been more frequent at a younger age but now it becomes apparent how it impacts the quality of education they are receiving. In these grades, more than likely the additional stress of learning to comprehend math, science, social studies and reading may add to the need for parents to be better advocates. This is the time to also teach your child how to communicate with adults about issues and needs as it pertains to their education. Young children do become stressed too.
Pre-teens “tweens” are between age 9 and 12 depending on their maturity level. Female tweens straddle between lip gloss and embarrassment over still playing with Barbie dolls. I find it interesting when adults have doll collections. In my opinion, it’s sometimes a way to keep in touch with the “child” in them or to fill a void. Parents don’t forget good childhood memories and recount them on a loop when the opportunities present themselves. This is my favorite statement to my teenagers, “When I was younger….”. My tweens would roll their eyes and remind me that things are different now.
Male tweens struggle with different issues like still sleeping with their favorite blanket or stuffed animal, or letting someone show them affection in public. This time can be full of anxiety and confusion which often shows itself through many ways. Male tweens are often more assertive than females and are less apt to want to “please”. Be vigilant about monitoring any changes in behavior. Never be too busy to recognize them.
Developing relationships with teenagers may be tough sometimes but until that child turns 18 you are still responsible for them. Regardless of if they are delinquent or on the football team, support your child and bet there for them. Discipline your children as well. Peer pressure is real.
Parents need to be a little more realistic about their children’s behavior. I have seen some really well behaved young people until they hear the ice cream truck and bolt out of the house and run across the street without permission or looking for oncoming vehicles. There should be consequences at any age including taking away the ice cream that they just bought for themselves. Young people just need help to think things through. Teenagers may want to be out and about, spending a night at a friend’s house or staying out late. That freedom should come with very firm rules based on age, responsibility and activities. Also be specific about the meaning of staying out late, curfew or phone cut off time.
Be mindful that your children need you more than ever to understand them while they are still in school. Understanding what they are learning in school and what should be the expected norm physically and mentally for their age group will be important for both parent and child. And while the above is from my personal experience and observations, there is a lot going on in the world so be more attentive to your children.
This was printed in the October 15 - October 28, 2017 edition