By: Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner
In our 15 years of parenting, Shop Guy* and I have learned that the art of parenting includes expecting the unexpected. I’m sure we’ve stared at one another in disbelief (at least once a week) over something baffling one of our kind, sensible kids has done. Read more >
• Nora, four, chasing her brother through the house with a pizza cutter.
• Isaac, twelve, walking unsupervised with friends to a local sports bar/restaurant for “nachos” at 10:30 p.m.
• The two of them, old enough to know better, cleaning up with paper towels and then trying to flush them down the toilet.
In our commitment to positive parenting, we’ve educated ourselves about ages and stages. We want to be comfortable knowing when we’re right to say, “It’s developmentally appropriate” and when we should worry. Here’s what we’ve learned.
If you observe or experience…
1. ...Your child being charming out in the world, but fire and brimstone at home…
It’s normal. Almost without fail teachers, coaches and other adults tell us how awesome our kids are. Most of the time we see it too. But then there are the moments when they’re snippy, rude, ornery and just downright awful. The chasing your brother with weapons times. Explanation: Kids tend to feel most comfortable and are able to open up the most at home; sometimes they may be testing you (to see if they are loved and lovable just for who they are, even when they’re a pain or in pain); or perhaps your family has gotten into a communication rut. The How to Talk books offer great insights into how to promote positive connections and turn challenging situations around.
2. ...Your child spending more time arguing over a task instead of just getting it done and moving on…
It’s normal. In the 1960s—at the behest of the federal government—human development researcher and holocaust survivor, Gisele Konopka, identified eight basic needs that all young people seek to meet one way or another. Testing limits and boundaries, exerting control over self, and experimenting with independence are all necessary parts of growing up, she found. They’re also reasons kids will push and push about something that seems not worth debating.
3....Your child acting moody and unpredictable…
It’s normal. We expect a wide range of emotions and behaviors from toddlers and preschoolers. They are going through so many changes and are learning different ways of expressing themselves. We don’t give older youth that same benefit of the doubt, even though they are going a similar stage. Mood swings are appropriate.
If, however, you become concerned that your child many have more than just normal ups and downs, here’s some information from the National Institute of Mental Health.
4. ...Your child doing something totally irresponsible or going along with behavior of his or her peers…
It’s normal. Brain research shows that the parts that most influence decision-making, planning, and rational thinking are still developing way into the third decade of life. That means young people’s pleasure-seeking drives are going full speed without consistent controls. Thus they need adult guidance and support. My son, Isaac knew the late-night outing was a bad idea, but the parents in the house he was staying at dropped the ball, not paying attention to where the boys were going. And we were remiss in not making our expectations about sleepover supervision clear. For more fascinating information on brain development and its effect on kids, visit Dr. David Walsh’s website.
Now about the paper towels down the toilet? Well, let’s just chalk that up to some things in life not going quite the way you planned.
*Shop Guy: My husband, partner, best friend