How do we teach our children to be considerate human beings and not demanding ones that throw a tantrum every time things don’t go their way? As always, first, we teach by example. We teach by remembering that they are like photo copy machines that learn to mimic our every actions, words and intonations.
There is a distinct difference between a demand and a request. Let’s say a child received a gift and didn’t say thank you. Typically, parents say to a child “what do you say?” In that question from the parent is a hidden demand (I want you to say thank you). In being present with yourself in a moment such as that, a parent might say “That was such a nice gift Justin gave you. Would you like to say anything to him?” This gives the child an opportunity to choose, without being forced to choose. If that child chooses not to say thank you, that’s ok, because the child is left with himself in that choice.
What I mean by “a child is left with himself in that choice” is that there is no “interference” in the moment by any old part of ourselves that would make the child feel bad about their decision. The child is then left with himself wherein he or she has an opportunity to experience whether his choice felt right or not in that moment.
Children learn in their own time. Within every human being lives both a compass and the good to which it points. Somehow along the way, we have buried that internal guiding compass.
Many of us have experienced a strongly negative demanding child, the child that screams and makes a scene because they were told “no” to their request (which most likely came in the form of a demand in the first place).
First, we have to understand that it was our very inattention that created that demanding child’s behavior in the first place. It was the past that spoke to us in the moment and convinced us to acquiesce to them in their fitful display. That acquiescence created a negative pattern that will manifest itself once again until properly sacrificed in the moment it appears. Reactions are memories. They are the past revisiting the moment for another opportunity to not do the same ol’ thing again.
For example, let’s say a pattern that has been created is that when you go to the grocery store, your child always demands a candy bar, and you have acquiesced to that demand time and time again in order to avoid a scene. In order to break that pattern, there has to be a disruption of that pattern.
Don’t ever assume that your child is too young to understand something. Simply speak to them from your heart. Being honest with them by saying something like “You know Jane, I didn’t help you by giving you those candy bars every time you screamed for them at the grocery store. I actually hurt you by doing that. You may not understand that now, but it is true, and I’m sorry. I want to let you know that I can’t continue with that same pattern anymore, and I won’t be buying you candy bars when we go to the grocery store, or (name other places you tend to give in). You may still feel the need to scream and throw a fit about it when I tell you “no”, and that’s ok, but it won’t make a difference in my decision. I love you and want to help you be the best person you can be.”
I can’t stress enough how vital it is to follow through with something such as this. It is a “wrong” order of things to allow a child to dictate and demand a parent to do anything. The adult is “above” the child and intended to be the proper guide to them. The present moment is above the past and was always intended to be the proper guidance to each and every one of us. Until we can live in the right order of things, nothing will ever change.
I want to additionally state that even though you may have spoken with your child about your intention, when the time comes and you are in, let’s say, the grocery store, that doesn’t mean that your child won’t ask for that candy bar. If they do, remember that it will be the “past” pattern that is speaking from the child, a pattern that you created. You can simply remind the child of your conversation and ask them if they remember what you said. If a fit ensues, allow them to have it. Stand in the midst of it as if you are Inspector Clouseau, investigating details of a crime.
Take no concern of others around you that might be disturbed by the fit and commotion. Sacrifice that old embarrassed self and be with your child. Let the disturbance that is moving through you in having to witness your child’s tantrum, move through, just as you allow it to move through your child.
As with all great things, sacrifice is needed. To be with a child, no matter how busy we are, requires sacrifice. We need to take the time and remember what we truly wish for them, no matter the cost to us of the precious image we have of ourselves.
Terri Knuth (a/k/a Terri Poppins) started an on-call nanny business in 2009 after a 31-year career as a paralegal because she felt a certain calling to work with children. She has cared for well over 100 families with children of all ages, including doing respite care for special needs children. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, swimming, and attending classes at the Life of Learning Foundation, a center for self-study. You can find more information on her site: www.terri-poppins.com.
Image courtesy of S&B Vonlanthen.