Before we jump into why my child is not doing that I want him to do, let’s spare a moment to think on following lines…
I know I must exercise each day. I know I must not eat that extra piece of chocolate brownie. I know my body needs some sunlight exposure on a regular basis. I know I must not hit my children………the question here is, AM I DOING IT?
We may often think, but the child knows what to do, so why is he or she not doing it?
Well this thought comes from the assumption that if the child knows, the child will do it…..Really! Think about it.
And top it with the developmental fact that the regulation and self control department keeps building in the child all the way till they are in their 20s(!! Didn’t somebody say, parenting is for brave-hearts!). Will this change our approach the next time we are yelling at the children-But you know how to do it.
Whenever facing a deadlock kind of situation with the child (My way or no way), the first self talk that we must do is- Is my child liking putting himself or herself in this situation.
If we look at the child, from ‘let me observe what is going on’ lenses, we may notice that the child may not even make an eye contact (when showing defiance), the head may be hung low or may turn the body away while reeling through the thoughts of ‘I know I need to do it, I know how to do it….but I simply cannot do it’. We may take that as defiance, I would urge you to look beyond and see the struggle in the child to keep the posturing going. Even lines like
‘I know you are struggling to get motivation to do this work”
Followed by, wherever required: “How do I help you to make it easier for you”
“Let me know if you need my help. I am right here”
could immediately change the situation. Like the air blown out of the balloon, it takes away the heaviness in the air. The child will feel supported instead of being cornered under judgmental eyes. The chances are very high that sooner or little later the child will get enough motivation to carry the activity out. Now here the help could be anything that both of you are comfortable with (and ideally non material reward) for example, sitting with the child, dividing the work, suggesting playing favorite music while doing the work, keeping the favorite bunny or even highlighting the struggle of the child to the other sibling and see how a help can be given (often the acceptance could be more when it comes from a sibling than a parent, don’t forget to offer dollops of praise to both once the work is done). Figure out the options in a collaboratively manner and see how it goes. Even a child as young as 4 years old is capable of an amazing participation when the wings of understanding and support is given.
If non compliance or defiance is becoming a pattern during a particular activity, do see if it is getting triggered by unrelated events like, I am finding it difficult to get ready for the school as I missed packing the activity items today. Or I am already late to do this, I am afraid I will lose my TV time post this. Show flexibility (which seems fair to both you and the child) when collaborating with the child. At the end of the day we want out children to learn that -I will get another chance if I couldn’t make it this time.
As I always say, It is easier to love and trust our children when they are exactly going by the rule and milestone book. It is the non-rule book and delay instances which need more love and trust. And we keep showing our trust each time the child struggles. Each time when the child sees himself (or herself) overcoming a particular hurdle, he or she is ready to surmount bigger goals with more confidence and higher self esteem coming from having done it before tucked under the belt.
Finally, be mindful that we too struggle with a chasm between knowing and doing and it is tougher on these little minds who are still learning the A B Cs of self control and regulation. And they are not doing it to deliberately hurt you.Truly believe that if they could have done the work (emotionally as well as physically), they would have done it. Change the lenses and experience the magic.
The question for us today is- Are we ready to support our child in bridging the gap between knowing and doing?