We all want to instil positive values and behaviour in children. However, it’s important to remember that they are just little people trying to navigate a sometimes, unfamiliar world and we should not expect a level of perfection that we as adults don’t even adhere to ourselves. Children are constantly learning about themselves, about boundaries and limitations and about the world around them. Through this learning process, there will always be ups and downs because they don’t have all of the answers. Let’s face it, none of us do, do we?
This is why it is so important to model the behaviour that we want to see in children and to not hold them to a higher standard than we, as adults, could even live up to. We all have off days where we can feel agitated and snappy and days where we are not quite ourselves. Children do too, yet we can, at times, expect them to be on form at all times, forgetting that they too are people with changing emotions and moods.
If we were to treat children in the same way that we treat adults, would we do the things that we do?
If an adult was busy doing something that they were really focused on, would we walk up to them and close it down because we had decided that it was time to do something else? Or, would we let them know that we needed to move on to the next task and give them time to finish off what they are doing?
If someone was not being their usual self would we try to find out the reason why, or would we just judge their behaviour?
If a person asked you to pass them something with a polite and friendly tone, but without the word ‘please’ attached to it, would we refuse to give them what they were asking for, or deem them as being rude? Do we honestly say the word ‘please’ after every single request that we make?
If an adult made a mistake like knocking over their drink, would we get angry with them and punish them, or would we help them to clean it up and tell them not to worry as it was only an accident?
We have to ask how we would feel and react if we put ourselves in the shoes of children – if the answer is that we would get frustrated or feel annoyed, is there any wonder that children sometimes react the way that they do and go into meltdown?
Children learn from what they consistently see. If we want them to have nice manners, we need to have nice manners. If we want them to be kind, we need to be kind. If we want them to take responsibility, we need to take responsibility when we get things wrong.
Human beings are imperfect by nature because we don’t come to this earth with all of the answers. It is our job to lead by example and to teach children through our own actions. However, it is also important to remember that our example will never teach them ‘perfection’. We will make mistakes and have off days and this is normal. We just need to remember that children will have these kinds of days too and that like us, they won’t and shouldn’t be expected to be perfect all of time.
A child’s view of the world and themselves is formed by what they consistently hear, see and feel around them. It is our job to demonstrate the kind of behaviour we want to see and to instil positive values that will give them a strong foundation for the future. Children need strong boundaries and I believe that it is important to have them. However, as we are setting these boundaries and leading the way, we also need to take a step back and ask ourselves if we are holding children to a higher standard than we would be able to live up to as adults.
Respect is one of the most important qualities that we can instil in children, but it works both ways. If we want children to be respectful, we need to act in a respectful way around them too and ask ourselves if our actions would be acceptable if the shoe was on the other foot.
About the author:
Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the early years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.
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