Some common complaints we hear from parents are: It’s frustrating that my three year-old refuses to write; my eight-year-old son gives me a hard time when I try to wake him up in the morning; It’s so irritating when my teenage daughter does not finish her school assignments on time.
Here’s a case study: Ajay is a three-year-old who loves to run and play. He has a high need for movement and cannot sit in one place for long. Meanwhile, his mother wants him to sit down and finish the writing work given by the school. She is worried that he will be left behind in his class. When Ajay’s mother makes him sit down to write, he ends up crying and has a meltdown.
Child development experts say, that hand eye coordination for a child develops around the age of five to six years.
So in Ajay’s case, there is an evident incompatibility between the mother’s expectation and his capability. The melt down Ajay is having comes from the stress he is feeling. Resisting writing and crying is his way of communicating his inability to do the task.
Brain fact: When a person is stressed, a lot of energy gets used up. During this stressful time, the hypothalamus shuts down some functions of the brain that are not essential for immediate survival.
To conserve energy, some of the functions that may be get suspended are the digestive and immune systems and the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that controls reasoning and decision making). When children are going through stress and have big feelings, it is impossible for them to exercise self -control as the prefrontal cortex which helps in emotional regulation is inaccessible.
It is helpful for parents to be aware of this fact and that know about the stress caused in children due to the incompatibility between a child’s capabilities and expectations from adults. As parents, the first step is to make a shift in our belief system – Every child wants to learn and develop and is not being lazy. Believing that our child is capable, will make it easier for us to trust our child and let go some of our fears.
We could attempt to understand where the incompatibility lies with curiosity and openness. This will help in moving our focus from ‘I have to make my child do this task’ to ‘what is stopping my child from doing the task’.
Taking a pause to think about this gives us a chance to understand our child. Once we identify the incompatibility, we can collaborate with the child and help him bridge this gap. Support could be offered in numerous ways such as listening empathetically, having open discussions, or problem solving together etc. As a facilitator in our children’s life, it is important to trust and help work out solutions along with them.
— Sunitha R. is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families. To know more, look us up www.parentingmatters.in