When at work I tend to see a lot of hurried adults who in turn hurry their children. Sometimes this is necessary to get to certain appointments, get home for supper that’s cooking, or to pick up another sibling at another location. But one habit of the parent that confuses me, is when the child is purposefully dawdling, refusing to get dressed, or continually saying “I cant” and the parent ends up doing the task for the child. What is this teaching them? That if they wine, complain, or bother enough that their parents will do what they want. These parents are allowing their child to pass off on their responsibilities and if they try hard enough, someone else will do their work for them.
One parent I saw comes in to pick up her little boy, who is three and a half. He throws down his work, runs over to mommy to give a big hug, tells her all his stories about his day, then goes and puts away his work. Here is where the situation turns sticky. Mother is now over by the hooks, gathering her child’s pictures, putting his bag in order, and gathering his lunch kit. He comes over to her, she asks him to take off his shoes and put them on the shelf. He looks at her with the biggest eyes ‘I cant”. She looks at him again, and says to please take off his shoes, they still have to collect his brother. At this point he sits on the floor, gives a big pout and wines “I cant mommy”. Well this continues on for about five minutes till the child is having a tantrum on the floor, and the mother ends up throwing everything on the floor, grabbing the shoes, taking them off, shoving on the boots and stating ‘there, I did it now, is this what you want?’ and storms off. Yes mother, this is what he wanted. You have played into his game and allowed him to be in charge of the situation! Sadly, this happens a lot with parents being too tired to allow the child the time to understand that this isn’t their job, but the child’s! This isn’t a time for a fit but a chance to be responsible!
When a child is starting to pout, there is a reason for I, the child is craving attention, and is hoping for the parent to indulge in this simple, though frustrating, act. In this instance, a good response is ” I see this is a big job and it can seem hard, but if you show me how you cant do it, maybe we can figure this out?” By responding with an I message, by recognizing their emotions and allowing them a chance to try, you are allowing a person to grow, feel recognized, and a chance to be responsible. But just stating “do it”, the child feels ignored and becomes more upset! This really is one of my favorite answers, for if a child can show you how hard it is, sometimes it works out well, and sometimes you can actually see where the problem is! If a child does the job, ask them how they feel, if they are proud for taking care of themselves!
When a child is allowed to get someone else to take care of their task, what are we teaching the child? That if they wine, fight and complain enough, then they are never held accountable for their jobs. Where does it stop? Soon the parent is allowing the child to control the parents through life decisions such as homework, or whose loss it is when the job looses an item, or whose responsibility is it when a job is done wrong. For instance, a teenage boy who had a paper route was given his paycheck. He was so proud of his accomplishments that he decided already on what treat he was going to get himself. But unfortunately, the paycheck was lost. When this happened he had a freak out at mom, complained about how he couldn’t afford his new bike, how was he supposed to deal with this! What does mother do? She writes him out a check of her own money (instead of contacting the company for a new one, or getting the child to earn the money back), child has learned, he raises his voice and gets upset, mommy will fix it. Does it stop there? What if the adult looses his job, and cannot pay rent, instead of finding a new job, having savings for an emergency (which was all spent on entertainment….), calls up mommy who lends him the money so he doesn’t have to be responsible! Parents, please! Teach a child at a young age that being responsible is more than just a tempter tantrum, its setting them up for life.
Teach them their jobs, their tasks, how to be proud of their accomplisments and how to be responsible! Allow them to do their jobs, their responsibilities and their tasks. Let them.