Children may not understand but they can feel. Help them understand their feelings by listening and summarising. Don’t be afraid to ask why as children’s why represents curiosity. It is only as adults we perceive why as critical or requiring justification.
Look at each emotion like a secret code. If a child says I’m frightened they are saying I need comfort. If they say I’m angry it’s because they are hurt then frightened that going without will damage them.
When a child first turns on a tap, they do not know that water will come out. This is both frightening and exciting, what they do know is that if you the parent are not afraid then it is OK.
When a child falls and grazes their knee they respond to your reaction more than their own pain.
If we as parents can rear our children in a way that suggests that we are calm, in charge and in control, then our children will learn that it is safe to explore and that their parents will stop them from doing anything dangerous.
So what then is dangerous? Is it pulling the pots and pans out from the cupboard or running out onto the road? Is it licking a dirty floor or playing with an electric knife?
Only by calmly disciplining our children will they respond.
A lesson will only be learned by repetition. Many parents strive instead to discipline hard enough or severe enough that the child will never do this again, but what they find is that their child then becomes fearful to learn anything.
Minimise the risks but maintain the enthusiasm for learning.
Look to your own upbringing. How did you learn? Are you enthusiastic or terrified? Where is the balance for you?
Each of us will learn differently but much of our learning is the same.
Children need to learn to respect others but in turn parents need to respect the limitations of the child. Understand that children cannot comprehend the rules as we see them. Look to the rules you yourself follow and ask like a child does “why?”
Why do I have to bathe every day? Why do I have to get up early each morning?
Children see simplicity and complexity at the one time and when you long to answer “simple we get up early because we need to go to work” and feel satisfied, look further and ask why again. Soon we see that what was so mind numbingly simple and taken for granted becomes infinitely complicated.
When we question our core beliefs we often become frightened, frightened to admit we sometimes do things ‘just because’. Do not be angry with a child for asking, they are not trying to trip up your philosophy on life or uproot your belief systems and way of life, they are simply trying to create their own.
To answer from birth what takes more than a lifetime to contemplate, that magical question WHY.