Figuring out the mind of a four year old
I have been trying to figure out the mind of my four year old recently and its not an easy task. All children are different and special in their own way but some, like my second child, are a little more difficult then others. What do people call them? Active, independent, intelligent, clever but what they really want to say is spoiled, rotten, just plain awful! I went searching everywhere for the answer to why my child misbehaved a lot, why he had no respect whatsoever for his parents, why he thought everything revolved around him and his needs and wants. Finally after many months of searching, wondering and pulling my hair out, I realized it was me! My child expected everything handed to him when he wanted it because I did it. Turns out I am an enabler. I don't want my child to get upset, feel bad, or get hurt feelings and so I go out of my way to make sure this doesn't happen, but what I didn't realize is that all of these experiences that I label "bad" are not bad and they are what a child needs to grow. I witness everyday the entitlement of many college students that stems from parents doing everything for their children! I now see how really easily this can happen.
Changing a Child's Behavior
How can you change this? It's a little bit harder to change at age 4 but I realize it would be even more difficult at age 8 or 10 or 12. I knew I better get started sooner than later. I noticed at preschool my son was very interested in doing projects and felt very good about showing me how he learned to do something himself so one day I told him that together we were going to create a "Big Boy" list and asked him what he would like to start doing on his own like a big boy. I had to make suggestions to get him started...getting a drink of water, getting himself dressed in the morning, putting on his own shoes, he then suggested cleaning the books off his floor and making his bed! When he accomplishes the task I let him cross it off the list. When he falls back into his usual routine of asking me to do something for him I show him the list and that he crossed it off. I remind him that he is a big boy now. It works! He actually looks at it proudly and says "Oh yeah!" and does it! The thing I like best about the list is that it grows with the child, and everyday you can add and/or cross off another thing that your child can do for him/her self.
Consistency is Key
Although this list idea is helping me figure out the mind of my four year old, there is one last thing that I should point out. You have to be consistent with it or it loses its appeal drastically! A lesson I learned big time! But I am back on track and even though it almost kills me sometimes, I let him do these things himself. Even if it means some water spills on the floor (he offers to wipe it up! - we added "wipe up spills" to the list!), or the bed isn't made to perfection (he is so very proud of it). What might be the best thing about this idea is that it has forced me to not care so much about everything being perfect. I have learned a little lesson here too and have grown myself while trying to get through to and teach my 4 year old.