Gail Joan Cohen
CHANGING THE WORLD
It would be wonderful if we could change the world to adapt to our children. What parent has not gone to school to try and explain the child’s behavior? “He is shy, please be gentle.” Or, “The children bully him. Do not let them.” The truth is that we cannot change the teachers or the world to adapt to our children.
We must teach our children to adapt to the world. We need to teach the skills they will need to live comfortably in our society. We must help them to be who they are, with their own personality, strengths and challenges. We must learn to accept others for who they are. We must teach them not only to get along, but also to blossom and grow and benefit society. And, most importantly, we must teach them appropriate responses that do not lead to stress and/or stress related illnesses.
This is a big undertaking. Being aware is the first step. Accept your child for who she or he is. Sometimes it is difficult to identify the child’s core personality. What traits are affected by the environment? What is affected by a physical problem? What is affected by the foods we are eating? Have the child checked thoroughly by your physician. Check hearing, vision, speech and any areas of pain. Correct anything that can be corrected. Accept and adapt to those things that cannot be changed. Teach tolerance, acceptance and love for our children, for ourselves and for others. Teach and foster an attitude of acceptance of diversity. Children will learn from your attitude and what you say about others. We are all the same inside. When you believe and feel that way so will your children. If you children ask about someone who they see as different, have a conversation around it.
Identify your child’s strengths. Praise, encourage and develop these strengths. Perhaps your child loves to read. Encourage and set aside time for reading. Ask questions about what he read, so he will learn to verbalize what he knows. This will also show that you are interested in what he can do and give him feedback that he is a valuable person.
Perhaps your child is strong. Let her help you with chores and tasks. Enjoy the time together. Praise her ability to do difficult tasks. Speak to your child. Ask what he or she really wants to do. Really listen to the answer!
What are his challenges? Your child may be afraid of people or shy. Talk to your child about it. Listen and listen some more. Maybe there is a hidden fear. Help your child find ways that he can cope. When someone he does not know comes into your home (as opposed to strangers on the street, to whom he or she should never speak) what could the child do or say. Ask the child for suggestions. Perhaps he could just say “hello” and then go to another room until he feels comfortable about being sociable.
Is your child inflexible? If you say that we will have dinner at 6:00 PM and dinner is at 6:05, does that make him uncomfortable? Since we cannot make the world follow his standards, we must try and help him adjust to the world. How does he feel about the schedule? What does he feel inside when things are changed? Accept him, help him understand and gently guide him to accept our very flexible world. You may want to start slowly. Dinner tonight will be between 6:00 PM and 6:05 PM. Perhaps by the next day, week or month you may want to try dinner between 6:00 PM and 6:15 PM.
Stretch the problem trait very slowly. Listen to how he or she feels. It is okay to feel that way. We cannot change the way we feel. What we can change is the behavior we exhibit when we feel a certain way. Not acknowledging our feelings can cause problems later in life. Talk with your child about what behavior is appropriate when your child feels a certain way. Recognizing the way we feel and learning appropriate behavior lessens the frustration thus minimizing the chance of your child having a tantrum. He can learn that a tantrum is not the appropriate behavior. He can also learn that hitting or biting is not the appropriate behavior. A good possible behavior may be talking about the situation and reaching a compromise or leaving the area or any more appropriate response depending on the situation. This is a better solution than having a tantrum or hitting or crying. Asking questions and letting the child discover the answers for himself is better than telling a child what to do. Help your child to grow and adapt to our imperfect world.
Each person has different abilities and skills. It is just the way we are. It doesn’t make us right or wrong. Children mature with different timetables. Children may be very mature in one area and immature in another. Most children do not want to deliberately misbehave. They may not have the skills necessary to do the expected request. This can cause frustrations and inappropriate actions. Some life skills are known instinctively by some children and some children need to be taught these skills. Some children have good social skills and some children do not. If your child does not know social behavior instinctively then these skills need to be taught. It may take lots of patience, love and kindness to teach the life skills your child will need to know. Yelling, punishing and criticizing children for skills they do not know or possess will make the situation worse. If your child is misbehaving ask yourself if this is just a skill he does not have naturally and needs to be taught. Children need to know themselves and their abilities and accept themselves as they are. We, as parents, also need to know and accept their abilities and their challenges. Helping our children and ourselves to see and adjust to the problems and frustrations by discussing appropriate actions in given situations will give our children the skills they can use forever when life’s challenges cause other frustrations as we know they always will.
By being aware and accepting of his challenges, your child will be more aware and accepting of others’ problems. People are not perfect. Our children’s behavior is not necessarily a reflection of who we are. We need to accept ourselves and our children. We are all okay for who we are today. Life means constantly growing, accepting challenges and moving forward. This is the journey. Embrace it and enjoy it. Enjoy your children and enjoy your life.
Teach your children to be kind to everyone and not just those who are kind and friendly to them. This will be an important lesson in school. Teachers and other students have their own sets of problems. Teach to be tolerant and understanding of others. A smile and kindness can make a big difference in your child’s school experience.
We can change the world. Not to adjust to us or to our children, but to make it a kinder, more peaceful and wonderful place in which to live. We can change the world, one child at a time.