Never, ever take a child’s limit-pushing behavior personally.
Withdrawing our affection as a form of discipline teaches a child that our love and support turns on a dime, evaporating because of his momentary misbehavior. How can that foster a sense of security?
Parents sometimes fear they will crush a child’s spirit if they are firm and consistent about rules. Truthfully, it is the other way around. A child does not feel free unless boundaries are clearly established.
When a teacher moves around the room, praising each kid, “Great job! You are so smart!” the students figure out pretty quickly that someone is being lied to. They know they can’t all be geniuses, and they begin to doubt our honesty—or at the very least, our judgment.
Acknowledging an infant or toddler’s point-of-view can be magically calming, because it provides something he desperately needs – the feeling of being understood. A simple affirmation of our child’s struggles, “You are having a hard time getting those shoes on. You’re really working hard,” can give him the encouragement he needs to persevere through his frustration.
Children do not usually admit this, but they do not wish to be all powerful, and the possibility that they might be is frightening indeed. Children raised without firm, consistent boundaries are insecure and world-weary. Burdened with too many decisions and too much power, they miss out on the joyful freedom every child deserves.
Children who possess competence through experience will be safer in the world because they will not launch themselves headlong into risks they are unprepared to handle. A child who believes he’s ready for the deep end of the pool because you praised his incredible talent as a swimmer when he flopped through his first two freestyle strokes is in much more danger of drowning than a child who has a realistic sense of his abilities.
Toddlers are definitely capable of cooperating, but they need to be taught through respectful feedback, corrections, and modeling rather than being tricked, manipulated, or coerced.
When children feel ignored, or even just a bit out of favor with us, it rattles them, and fear shows up in their limit-pushing behavior. Reassuring hugs, kisses, and “I love you” will certainly help to mend these bridges, but the messages of love that matter most are heard through our patience, empathy, acceptance, respectful leadership, and the genuine interest we take in knowing our child.
A person who has gained the power of reflective attention, the power to hold problems, questions, before the mind, is in so far, intellectually speaking, educated. He has mental discipline—power of the mind and for the mind. Without this the mind remains at the mercy of custom and external suggestions.
All obvious and important physical learning aside, a tremendous amount of social and emotional learning comes with physical risks. Children learn what they can and can’t do, and how to make good choices for themselves with that information. They also learn to deal with their problems and to make themselves feel better when something goes wrong.
Another common and mistaken idea hidden in the word “learning” is that learning and doing are different kinds of acts….Of course, this is nonsense. There are not two processes, but one. We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way. When we first do something, we probably will not do it well. But if we keep on doing it, have good models to follow and helpful advice if and when we feel we need it, and always do it as well as we can, we will do it better. In time, we may do it very well.