Let Freedom Ring: Helping Parents Put Out the Shoulds
Saturdays….who loves Saturdays? I’ll be honest, there are some Saturdays where I struggle. I struggle “getting it all done.” And I know what you are thinking: “It’s okay, you don’t have to get it all done!” And you are right, I don’t. However, let me tell you, there’s nothing more frustrating than thinking the housework is close to being finished and then…I walk into my boys’ room and I find at least two baskets of clothes shoved in the bottom of their closet. I feel my blood begin to boil and my mind races to…
“I’ve shown them, told them, taught them, talked to them, modeled this….why can’t they just do it! They SHOULD be able to do this by now!”
But then I catch myself. I stop, I take a deep breath, and I say back to myself, “Wait, they are still just children. They are still learning…and that’s ok. It’s my job to be patient and continue to teach them.”
As a mother of 3 young boys and as a therapist, I tend to hear parents, including myself, say, “Why can’t my kid do that by now? He should be able to (fill in the blank) by now!”
The truth about kids is that is takes repetition, repetition, repetition for them to learn and at times, adult expectations tend to be too high. Added to that, if a child has experienced attachment trauma, it’s repetition times 1,000.
The truth is that kids, all of them, tend to think in the moment and their cause and effect thinking is underdeveloped. Added to that, if a child has experienced attachment trauma, his cause and effect thinking is incredibly immature.
The truth is that kids tend to avoid activities that do not make them feel good in the moment. Added to that, if a child has experienced attachment trauma, his need for “in the moment feel-good” tends to be a bottomless pit.
“But wait! They need to learn to be independent!” Yes, children do need to learn to be independent, but adults must remember that this learning will come over a long period of time, and for hurt children, it will take much longer. It vital for us to remove the “shoulds” from our vocabulary.
Here’s the thing…later, I sat down with my 11-year-old son and we calmly talked through the clothes-shoved-in-the-closest-for the-millionth-time situation. I said to him, “Hey buddy, we’ve talked about this clothes thing and we’ve even practiced it. What kept you from putting them away?” He waited a minute and said, “Mom, I was so excited for my friends to come over, I just couldn’t wait. So, I just wanted to get it done.” My mind took a deep breath. There it is….it will be ok. From there, we discussed how he could have done it differently and moved on.
So, will their freedom ever ring? Yes! It will! However, independence looks different for every child, and it’s up to us--the grown-ups--to be patient, understanding and “non-shoulding”!
Now….here’s what you should do: Go and have a Happy 4
Stefanie Armstrong, MS, LIMHP