Picture your children getting along with each other, asking permission to interrupt you on the phone, giving you and others compliments, instead of barbs, digs and nagging. Picture yourself not yelling, hitting or arguing with your spouse or live-in or the kids. Sound good? Have you had enough aggression, and impulsivity, conflict, and disappointing behavior to last a lifetime, then the following story will be a lifesaver. Be sure to tell us what you think about the ideas presented to assist you!
If I asked each person to tell me one way to stop violence and abuse in the schools or in the streets, are there any of you out there brave enough to email me with the suggestion? My story is the story of how to teach cooperation, kindness and altruism to your children and even the babies in your household. Yes, babies can learn these skills, through their senses, and through adult understanding of how they think!
Why do some children grow up to be considerate, cooperative, gentle and responsible, just as others do not? Because someone cared for and played with them, treated them well, and showed them love and respect, even in the earliest months of life.
What do you think predisposes some children toward niceness, non-violence and cooperation, when others are mean, and willful and uncaring? Moody toddlers are the ones who get hit every time they pick up something they shouldn't.
Irritable, crying infants are the ones who their parents call "bad" or a pain. Uncooperative toddlers run away in the grocery store or into the street, getting a slap on the head in the grocery store, or a shove in the back when they aren't walking fast enough. Violent parents are the ones who tell me they use violence because their parents did, and it taught them a lesson, and they deserved it. No they didn't. I know what it's like to hear that; I was one of those kids who grew up in a house with a mother who pushed her around, yelled, pulled hair, and told her to go change, because she looked "so awful." No she didn't.
No little kid needs a quilt trip, or needs to feel shamed into believing she has to try harder, that it is her fault. No it isn't. In any household, adults are in charge and they are the agents of change and if children receive attention for the good things they do, and receive compliments and credit for good behavior, they will develop self-control! But there is evidence to suggest that individual children do differ in how nice they are!
Children are born with personalities of their own and their temperament is a great deal of whom they are and how they behave. It is up to adults to figure out the personalities in any family and work with them. Temperament is a stable trait and last over time, so it is important that parents work to get the best match between parents' dispositions and child personality.
Most behavior problems occur because parents haven't worked with the child's normal personality traits. Because children see their family as their loved ones, they copy them and see them as role models. They incorporate the values and beliefs of those people they love. An early study of civil rights workers in the South in which young people who were the most committed and worked the hardest and longest were the same ones who came from families in which the parents were deeply committed to the cause for which they had essentially been exposed since birth.
If you are an unhappy or even an unpleasant parent, you can still teach cooperation and kindness to your child, but you need help. You need a different role model than yourself, and you need to do it during your child's infancy. Give up some time with your child to a loving grandparent, or day care teacher, or church friend- churches are important for more than religious training.
Churches or social groups are a dependable source of support and alter egos for children. You can, in fact, produce a pleasant child. Every fortunate experience that a child has with caring and giving adults is a powerful agent for change in the life of a child. Even one meeting with a powerful, good person can change a youngster’s life. Children need good role models on TV, in the movies, on videos and in computer games.
As children imitate those they love, they also adapt to the habits, both good and bad, of those they love. If you as a parent don't feel you can be the teaching kind of parent, go out and find the most powerful teachers and role models you can, but don't give up on your own ability to teach.
You're responsible for this developing child, and you need to know that most parents know they are the child's first and best and most available teacher!
Did you know infants are cooperative, even in the womb? They learn to feel the rhythms of the mother's body and do a kind of dance inside the womb. When they are born, they can also learn to pay attention to the feelings of others, as they expand their experiences by watching and touching the people who care for them.
Everyday touching, listening and looking are the skin hunger a baby feels. Food hunger is the most driving force of all, as infants work on the job of gaining weight and length. Can these baby experiences develop the human infant to care about others and learn to be helpful? The answer is yes. Infants and toddlers can learn to care, as well as cooperate, by watching, listening and imitating.
Dr. Radke-Yarrow points out that, if a dog is hit by a car, it seems to matter in a child’s development if the parent cares about the dog’s pain, and says something about how bad it is to see that dog hurt. The more a parent tries to do something about alleviating the dog's pain, the more the child tries to help.
But first he or she must draw attention to himself, and feel comfort and pleasure in his actions. Infants call attention to themselves and get their needs promptly by shifting position, staring, wriggling, crying, sucking, babbling or just smiling. Babies are the best attention-getters in the world; they have more tricks to keep their parents attention, and get what they want at 14 weeks of age than a 14 year-old!
All these baby tricks are the beginning of social kindness, giving rise to feeling secure. These feelings allow an infant to become aware of the needs of others; these are the emotions of life, it's rhythms, its pace. Infants can't wait, in the beginning weeks of life, but soon they can actually wait several seconds and then minutes to be fed, or to be picked up or to play in a crib until someone comes to get them. In this way, parents are creating options and choices for even the youngest babies and toddlers.
If one toddler won’t get off a slide and another wants to use the slide, there are many peaceful solutions. The child who wants to use the slide can walk away and whine, getting the parent's attention; she can talk and babble at the other child, plead and cajole, be persistent, give in, get another toy, or seek assistance from a friend or adult.
All of these options do not require an adult to interfere, and the children can solve the problem themselves. Most teachers and professional child development trainers feel parents jump in too soon, and deprive children of solving some aspect of a troubled situation on their own. It's an important cooperative idea to let children try on their own, first, and then if they aren't able, to ask for help.
Parents should wait before they jump into situations and take over. If a baby is crying, an adult can call out, "I'm coming," and move toward the baby, not rushing, giving him a chance to collect himself and regulate his behavior by himself! Babies get expert at this, if only they are given a chance to try. Teach your children to ask for help if they can't manage themselves.
Infants and toddlers and young children can change their body positions to avoid conflict or to comfort themselves; older children can talk about ways to do things differently, after they have acted aggressively or negatively. The child who is learning cooperation and practicing how to control her own behavior will use crying and tantrums, but when hearing a parent's voice say, "you have a choice- you can get it together by yourself, or you can ask for help," the tantrum stops, and the child asks for help.
This is a big step for most toddlers and preschoolers, and is greatly appreciated by parents and sibling and teachers too. If you try these ideas, please let me know what you think. The strategies work, I promise. I've been teaching parents to engage in this type of cooperation and peaceful, gentle teaching for years! Thanks for visiting our site and reading the e-story for this month…see you next month with another helpful e-story. Susan