It seems to take my 10 year old child a lot longer than it should to come out all over. It is the most frustrating part of the day.
My son is chatty which I like, but he often decides to have them great in-depth conversations about their favorite video game at the same time I try to remind him that he needs to find his glasses, his bottle of water, a mask, his shoes. He’s frustrated with the constant interruptions and reminders when I just want him to focus on collecting what he needs first and then tell me everything he wants to say once the front door is closed behind us.
I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that I am failing miserably in this little corner of parenting – raising a self-sufficient child who can move from one place to another in due course, taking everything he needs with him. I’ve tried every tactic I can think of to teach him to pause, breathe, look around, and gather his things, from visual checklists to the natural consequences of forgetting things to a ridiculous mantra I once did. it’s up to him to say to himself when he leaves. Even still, I find myself interrupting story after story to keep him on track to exit, much to the frustration of both of us.
As parents, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on these conflicts, which seem to carry so much weight at the moment. Like Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure: How the best parents learn to let go in order for their children to be successful, wrote several years ago for the New York Times:
While walking in the woods with a friend on a recent spring afternoon, I lamented my son’s lack of organizational progress. Like many tweens, her frontal lobe is barely half-baked, and her ability to master the demands of college lags behind her professors’ expectations. Despite strategy sessions and elaborate plans, his backpack and locker continue to function as, in his words, “a Tardis gone wrong” for all that is essential and time sensitive.
My friend listened, made noises of support and empathy, and then reminded me of how far he had come years rather than days. Her pretty point passed, way above my head, as I trudged through the mud and mud of my self-pity.
Later that day, when I felt sorry for myself, I realized that, of course, she was right. He has made progress; maybe not from yesterday or the week before, but in the long term.
When we are in the middle of a phase of anger that never seems to end, when a small child is overly aggressive with their peers, or when an older child decides that your period just isn’t for them, it It may be helpful to take a deep breath and focus on the long term view. Here’s how you can improve:
Take a look at the big picture
When I think about my son’s struggle to focus on transitioning from one place to another, I first think about how long this is going on, how long we’ve been focusing on it, and how it doesn’t seem. to go. nothing better. He owns had to become more responsible for this, I often think of myself. But if I zoom out from that tight shot what you would actually see is a child who had a parcel more autonomous during the past year.
He now cooks his own lunch and cooks his own snacks. He puts his shoes away when he gets home. He washes his hands without constant reminders. He noticed my bed wasn’t made the other day and made for me, for God’s sake. If I define his self-sufficiency by this area he struggles with, I ignore all the other ways he grew up. A few years ago, the idea of cooking his own lunch would have seemed impossible to him, but here we are. If we can try to look at our children’s behaviors in a larger context, we can feel a little more confident that they will come to understand the basics.
Take a step back
It is natural for us to worry about or overanalyze all the behaviors that affect our children. Whether they’re struggling in school, skipping classes, or constantly responding, we might wonder where we went wrong. But every child has strengths and weaknesses, skills they need to develop further, a frontal lobe that is still a work in progress. We are often too close to the point to be fair in our interpretation of the importance of the agreement – or whether it is equal a agreement at all. When this happens, one thing that can be helpful is to imagine that your child is not your child at all.
Whatever behavior or situation your child is currently grappling with, pretend to be in fact your child’s friend, or your best friend’s child, or the child next door. Imagine their parents confiding in you, explaining how they continue to miss curfew or got their third detention or never hand in their homework on time – what would you say? their? Sometimes we can see the “long-term view” more easily from an emotional distance, so try to simulate that distance for yourself.
Teach and lead by example
No matter how many times we tell our children to do a certain thing or act a certain way, our actions will always speak louder than our words. They learn to operate in the world largely by we operate in the world. How you treat them, how you treat others, and how you treat yourself will go a long way in informing their behavior as they get older and finally, thankfully, into adulthood.
I forget things too. A lot, in fact. I’m the one who is usually in charge of packing for family vacations, and that’s a common joke it’s not about if I will forget something obvious and important, but What random thing it will be this time. I do checklists, I focus, I try to remember every last thing and I always forget.
But when I do, and my son is with me, I try not to criticize myself. People are distracted and forget things. If I can go back and get it, I’ll go get it again. If I can’t, I try to talk about my other options. Because one day my adult child will walk through the front door with (for the most part) everything in hand. and when he forgets something, I want him to hear my voice in his head, say, “Well, that’s okay. I’ll find something.