"Act my age!" 2012/5/10 - published
Kids can drive ya nuts! It seems like every kid has a sixth sense on how to push the limits of his or her parents. Last week we were on vacation in Disney World, which was tons of fun, but when you combine a full day of sensory overload, the heat of central Florida, kids hopped up on ice cream and cotton candy and limited sleep, you have a recipe for disaster! After about 3 days of this situation, I caught myself holding my kids to completely unreasonable standards....and I wasn't alone. It was happening all over Disney World! Parents like me, who love their kids, were getting weary and imposing adult standards on their kids. We've all scolded our kids with the phrase "act your age!" In our situation, we were essentially telling our kids, "act MY age!"
If we aren't careful, we can easily slip into the frustration of expecting our kids to act like adults. We need to really be careful here. Kids are kids. And whether you like it or not, they will act like kids! We demoralize our children when we impose standards they simply aren't able to meet. Here are a few tips to keep you from the "act MY age" trap.
1. Remind yourself how old your kids are. This is not a mental exercise - say it out loud right now. When we force ourselves to recognize the actual age of our kids, we are one step closer to appropriate expectations for them. For instance, a three year doesn't typically do well without a decent sleep schedule. Sure, it's fun to let them stay up late and act like mini-adults, but this throws them off. Their little bodies need rest. If you do let them stay up late, adjust your expectations for the following day.
2. Think process, not perfection. Your kids are growing up. I know it feels slow, but it's moving much faster then you realize. Adjust your expectations for process. Our kids need intentional training for everything. We cannot expect them to pick up on important values and actions without intentional training. Take the time to help them understand and learn the expectations. Again, be patient. It is unlikely they will master the concept immediately. Encourage and expect consistent progress.
3. Laugh at the spilled milk. Our kids can mess things up, cause a scene, ruin their clothes, say the wrong thing at the wrong time and a hundred other offenses. Sometimes we need to sit back and laugh, knowing it's all part of the process of growing up. Every mistake is either an opportunity to train or an opportunity for you to express your disappointment. Sometimes the "spilled milk" gets the best of you; when it does, apologize to them and move forward.
4. Focus on age appropriate expectations. Its a parent's job to ensure a child knows the appropriate expectation for their age. This is where we must be intentional. Without giving the age and stage of life of our children, we can easily expect too much or not enough, which both produce equally negative results. When parents can be patient, deal with today's learning and growth, then we will see our kids master things far quicker than heaping great demands on them that are frankly too much for them to handle.
So, next time you reach that point of frustration that every parent experiences, just remember these 4 tips to stay out of the "act your/my age" trap!
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