Today I am starting a series of (approximately) weekly blog posts discussing commonly occurring situations and frustrations faced by many of the parents and educators with whom I work. The goal of these posts is to build empathy and perspective for the struggles that our children and students face in their day to day lives as they try to learn how to navigate life’s challenges and obstacles, so that we can approach them with as much calm and compassion as possible. My hope is that these posts will generate some helpful thinking and dialogue that will improve our ability to help our struggling children as best as we can. Today’s post is entitled “All in Good Time.”
So often we end up in conflictual situations with children because we want them to do something that they are simply “not ready” to do. I do not mean “not ready” in the sense of needing a few more minutes to finish what they are currently doing (although that certainly can be the case fairly often), but rather “not ready” in the sense of not being ready developmentally. Children progress at different rates, both compared to other children as well as within their ow different skill sets. We understand this when it comes to young children. We know that not all infants and toddlers learn to walk, speak, and use the potty at the same time and that there is a range of what is considered “typical” development for these different milestones. However, this range of development does not stop once children leave toddlerhood. Throughout their lives, children (and grown-ups, too!) continue to develop various skills at different rates. Skills such as handling frustrations, managing anxieties and worries, considering the results of one’s actions when making decisions, etc. all develop at different rates for different people. We know that many of these skills are actually not fully developed until well into our mid-20’s, and yet we often expect children to be good at these skills well before they actually are. This can play out in areas such as eating a variety of foods, sleeping well and in one’s own bed, completing schoolwork and homework, and participating in sports and performances. When we don’t attend to the fact that children progress at different rates, we run the risk of pushing our children to do things long before they are ready, which often results in stress, conflict, and resentment (both on our parts as well as on the part of our children) and can negatively impact the relationship we have with our children/students.
When working with parents and educators, I frequently use the phrase “go slow to go fast.” When we push children too fast, it can often end up backfiring, taking us further away from our goal. If we allow children to proceed at their own pace, in the long run they will frequently get there more quickly. Now, some will argue that we if we set the bar high, children will rise to the occasion, but that if our expectations are too low, children will not make progress, and thus we are doing them a disservice by not holding them to a high enough standard. Parents who try to attend to these issues can often be accused of being “helicopter parents” or the more recent term “snowplow parents” (a controversial term that I shall be discussing in a future blog post). For what it’s worth, and as a quick tangent, parenting and teaching are hard enough jobs, and there is no utility in wasting time and energy engaging in blaming and calling names. Anyway, I believe it is important to have “reasonable” expectations for our children. Finding that point where we push just enough but not too much can be a difficult task. Trust your gut. If your child does not seem ready, it may be because they are not ready. Sometimes, being a parent means meeting our children where they are and giving them the space they need to develop at their own pace. So, slow down, be patient, and they will get there in due time.
Feel free to leave appropriate and respectful thoughts and comments below.