I was trying to catch my breath, keep from yelling, and hold my younger child safely as Abbey darted to and fro, without a care in the world. She had just wiggled, kicked, and shoved to keep her teachers and myself from being able to help her stand still and listen. Then she darted out of the room and ran around the corner of the hall . . . giggling.
Afterward as I was changing Joseph in the restroom, she defied my request for her to stand near me, instead she lay in front of the restroom door with her foot in the door to keep it open, singing at the top of her lungs. I became increasingly frustrated, to the point at which I felt it was all I could do to hold my tongue and not become completely irate. Then she blew raspberries in my face and wiggled and ran when I tried to help her with her coat.
I was so done.
We left without saying goodbye to our friends. I hurried out the door holding Joseph and all of our things with Abbey trailing behind hitting my legs and wailing, “I don’t like you! I don’t like you!”
It’s a scene that I never imagined myself in when I held my firstborn baby girl in my arms after her birth. But it’s the kind of scene I have experienced several times throughout toddlerhood and now that Abbey is a preschooler. I’ve been told that it’s common among parenting journeys, but that doesn’t help me feel any better about it.
It’s definitely a scene I’d rather not repeat.
To Children, Play Is Their Whole World!
During our discussion of the events as I tucked Abbey into bed that night, Abbey said the most interesting thing of all. I asked her why in the world she pushed, shoved, and wiggled to get away from us, and why she ran around the corner.
“It’s not safe to do those things” I said.
“Mommy, I was just running after the rabbit in the waistcoat – like Alice!”
For a second, I was confused. And then I tried to explain to Abbey that there is a place for pretend and a place for regular behavior. But then it occurred to me that in her little child’s mind, there really isn’t a difference between playing and existence. That’s just how she LIVES.
I smiled at her as I thought for a moment about what to say – how to clarify for her that there really are actions that can be dangerous, or times that require obedience – while respecting the creativity that is the very center of her little life.
“Abbey, sweetheart, next time you want to chase a rabbit in a waistcoat, could you talk to me about it first? Mommy was only upset today because you ran off without talking to me first. It’s unsafe to run off on your own!”
She agreed that she might be willing to “let me in” on her ideas before she runs off or ignores my direction in the future. I gave her a kiss and tucked her into bed, all the while realizing what a wall I put between myself and my child by expecting certain behaviors and becoming upset when what I expect is not what I get.
Learning to See Things from My Child’s Perspective: Recognizing Wonderland
Abbey, at four years old, lives in her own perspective, and sometimes her behavior seems out of control when she really isn’t trying to misbehave. In these cases, responding with sensitivity is so important. “Sometimes a child’s behavior may seem difficult or disrespectful when it may just be a result of the child’s trying to make sense of the world”1. And isn’t that our job as parents? To help our children understand the world?
I have decided to try and see things from my child’s perspective more often, and offer to her a respectful ear for her creative ideas and explanations for things. While practicing positive discipline techniques, I have begun to get more comfortable with asking her perspective before acting on things or trying to control experiences – and it seems to really help our relationship.
- “Seeing the world from your children’s perspective helps you understand what they really want and need. Our children can teach us so much–by what they say, what they do, and what they see. And when we listen, we learn to be better parents.”
- Do you make time for your child to talk with you?
- Do you have realistic expectations that take into account how old your children are, what their attention span is like, and how much they can accomplish in any given time?
- Can you listen (without judging) as your child tells you his likes and dislikes, opinions, thoughts, and feelings?
- Do you ever take a step back and try to see the world from your child’s point of view? If so, how does that change your behavior as a parent? 2
Respecting your child’s perspective can be like the first steps into a totally different world – because their perspective is so different from ours. But showing love to your child in this way can be life-changing!
If you’d like to explore this idea further, Playful Parenting, by Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD is a great book reference for recognizing and becoming active in your child’s “wonderland” and understanding his or her point of view.
Photo Credit 1: Adapted from adwriter
Photo Credit 2: lulupine