As parents, it’s easy to catch ourselves expecting too much of our young children, especially in social situations. Why can’t they just sit still longer, be more patient, respond more appropriately?
And then when the resounding answer comes – often too late – it’s usually in the form of a forceful melt-down – your child’s and very often, your own.
I observed a young family recently at a local restaurant. The mom and dad were there with a bright-eyed, smart little guy who was just short of two. He was doing so well. He was eating and talking and staying put – impressively so – until he wasn’t.
And then – it was all over. He was finished, he needed to move on. Fortunately for him, his parents quickly recognized his cues and packed up the rest of his meal, paid the check, and left, waving good bye to us, his new friends.
Behavior is a child’s main means of communication. Reading our child’s behavior will tell us what he/she needs – will make the difference. As parents, we often try to ignore the first hints of what our child’s behavior is telling us – especially when we’re busy or out visiting with family and friends, enjoying ourselves.
Summertime presents many of these situations – picnics, family get-togethers, trips, social occasions, when we will be faced with how much and how long our children can last, before they hit the wall, before they show us in strong emotional and physical ways, that they are done. There is always the fine line of how far we can push things – how late we can stay, before we’ve stayed too long. And often, relatives’ and friends’ feelings are hurt, thinking we should stay longer, differing opinions about parenting surface, making our choices that much more difficult.
We can help by planning for all eventualities – thinking ahead, packing appropriate clothing, food, “loveys”, pajamas – making sure we are all rested before we begin. Having an end time in mind before we even get there and sharing that with family and friends, gives us more structure to our plans and, perhaps more understanding and acceptance from our friends and relatives.
And always – trying to keep in mind what is most essential, what is least stressful, what will make the difference between a lovely shared day or a stressful memory.
Have a great summer together!