13 Things expected of children and not of adults

The world we live in, lives by double standards. The standards and expectations of children is much higher than that of adults. This weird world where those with the least mature brain has to behave the most mature and those with the most mature brain does not have to clear the bar at all. Here is a list of 13 things that is expected of children and not of adults

Here is a list of 13 standards enforced on kids, but not on adults:

  1. Going to bed and falling asleep without a struggling to sleep
    • So often as an adult we also struggle to sleep, even when we are tired. We struggle to switch off our brains and then roll around. We often get up, move around a bit and try a bit later to get rest. Yes sleep is important for everyone, yet we have this immeasurably high standard for kids to meet. They are never allowed to struggle to sleep and get rest. They have to sleep according to our expectations and when they fail to meet that, we get angry, agitated and upset. Yes they need rest, yes they will be grumpy if they do not get enough rest, they know they need the rest as well. The same way we know we need the rest even more so urgently when we struggle to sleep ourselves. 
  2. React immediately when they are given instructions
    • This is the bane of our existence. We want them to be obedient to the degree that we expect of them to react immediately when we request them to do things or go somewhere. Yet when they ask us to do something, we ask them to wait and allow us to finish doing what we are doing. Or we even say no, yet they are not allowed to say no.
  3. Not show their discontent when they feel they have been wronged
    • I could probably write books and books on this. When a child cries, talks back, argues, says no, rolls their eyes, talks in a snide voice or even screams, they are viewed as naughty. Yet all of these behaviours are a way of expressing negative emotions, disagreement and the way they do it, is due to immature emotional control and also the need to be heard and noticed as a human being. 
  4. Do things they do not want to with a joyous attitude and not show discontent
    • They are not allowed to sigh or show irritation while doing a task or chore. They always have to do it with a smile on their face.
  5. Shop without touching anything
    • We all shop by touching. We often take things from the shelf to look at and then either buy it or put it back. Kids are often told, you do not shop with your hands while we are holding the shopping in our hands. They are curious, they also want to look and see. Many times kids will show you things, and we assume they want to buy it, just because you are in a shop, when in actual fact they just wanted to show you something they found interesting. When we keep equating showing with having to buy we create our own monster for ourselves, because then they will stop showing interesting things and only show things they want to buy.
  6. Have to hug, kiss or touch people they do not know or do not want to engage with
    • We as adults do not hug and kiss every person we greet. (now during covid we do not touch anyone) yet for some reason children have little to no choice in how they want to greet people. Do you remember that one sloppy kisser at the family reunion? That person who hugged you that gave you the willies everytime as a child, yet you were forced? Do you hug your boss or colleague or kiss them hello every time you see them? What about the new client who just walked in the door?
  7. Allow other people make use of their favourite possession without complaining
    • We all have favourite possessions. Possessions that we take care of and will not allow others to use, like our cars, we may allow a select few to make use of it, but man it has to be someone we trust deeply. Yet here we are at playdates and gatherings and force our children to allow other children to play with their favourite toy and if they say no, they are in trouble. Imagine a world where you are forced to share your house with whomever wants to make use of it, or even your car, or anything you own. 
  8. Accept physical harm as a means of love (spanking, hitting, smacking)
    • When an adult gets hit for disobedience from whoever holds the power in the relationship we call it abuse. When a child gets hit by a parent we call it love. The brain of a child interprets the smack from the adult the same way the brain of the adult interprets the smack from another adult. The brain releases the same fear hormones regardless of age, however in a child’s developing brain, it causes more harm than in an adult brain
  9. Eat everything even when they do not like it
    • As an adult we get to choose to eat what we like and enjoy. Yes sometimes for the sake of our health we eat foods we dislike, yet we have the power to choose which of those we dislike the least and eat that instead of the ones we really really cannot stomach. Yet we strip our kids from that choice
  10. Get up and get over it, especially when thing dramatically change around them
    • I have often seen and see it now more often than not. We as a society at large is going through a severely dramatic life changing pandemic. Yet we expect our children to be okay and not act out, not regress on certain behaviours, while they are also under immense stress the same way we as adults are. We expect of them to just buck up and carry on and ignore the stress and chaos of the dramatic world events unfolding around them. It impacts them, it impacts them deeply. Any change causes stress and stress hormones, and the smaller a child is, the less life experience they have to deal with it
  11. Always get along with their sibling
    • I love my siblings. Do i get along with all of them, no i don’t and that is okay. Our kids do not always have to get along with their siblings. The more we try to force it, the more I can guarantee you, that once they are grown up and have a choice of spending time with them, the more they will choose not to spend time with them. Let them build their relationship organically and on their own terms
  12. Never forget anything, instructions or stuff.
    • We joke that we have “spacial memory loss”. The moment we move to another space we forget what we were going to do there, yet when our kids do that, they are in trouble. We all have lost or forgotten personal belongings because we just forgot it somewhere, yet when a child does that, we immediately brand them as irresponsible, ungrateful and deserving of some sort of consequence over and above the loss they suffered.
  13. Never to get thirsty after bedtime
    • This one really boggles the mind. This mindset starts from the view that if we withhold fluids from them an hour or so before bed time, they will magically sleep through. And if they wake during the night and want to drink something we view it as wrong and they are not allowed to drink anything, they are just misbehaving and trying to be difficult, they have a sleeping problem… They are thirsty. The same way you have woken up many a night in your life and needed water to drink.

If we have an honest look at this list, it is time that we take a deeper look into what we expect of our children. Start seeing them as whole human beings who, just like us, needs support, understanding and most of all, for US as the Parents to lower the bar we set for them to clear.

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Parenting Tantrums

Between the ages of 0 to 24 months a child’s most developed part of their brain is the Lizard brain…Yeah a bit of an unfortunate name, but alas that is what it is called. See picture below for the triune brain lay-out.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/7d/eb/53/7deb53c56a8a79543c15b366e00ea6ff.jpg

Why Do Children Tantrum?

The lizard brain is in control of the survival. Physiological but also external. This part of the brain is also where fight, flight or freeze is located. (Our survival in the great big wild- basically outside of a mother’s womb). When this area of the brain is not triggered, the baby or child’s brain is in limbo and is able to rebuild neural pathways to the rest of the brain.

For a child this young, they cannot discern between need and want, their brain interprets it all as the same. If they need food and cannot have the food, their brain is telling them that they are going to die. Voila child cries and screams to get your attention, so that you respond and baby does not die. When they want a toy, the same feeling of upset triggers the “We are going to die” response and once again baby screams to get what they want.

Delayed gratification development lies within the limbic brain and only starts maturing from the age of 24 months. Thus it is usually recommended that you give a child what they want under the age of 2. We only start practicing delayed gratification and more strict boundaries after they have turned 2. 

Biology of a Tantrum

There is also a physiological aspect to the cry that we as parents need to understand as this still plays out in us as adults as well. With the activation of the danger center in the lizard brain the following things happen to the body:

Our body’s blood and oxygen supply route is deliberately changed. Going away from the brain to the larger muscles in the legs and arms. The capillaries narrows in the brain and widen in the muscles during perceived danger. This basically means that any access we had to the frontal lobe has now disappeared and we only have primal instincts to go on.

This results in an actual loss of words. The inability to speak and if we do speak we do so irrationally and almost obsessively repeating the words we have said before the center was triggered.

During this time the ear canal actually closes to only let in low noises. The reason for this connected to when civilization lived in the wild. A creeping lion in the bush will make soft low sounds and our brain needs to be able to hear where it is coming from. When we parent any child of any age during a tantrum, we need to speak to them calmly and in soft hushed voices. They will hear what we say, and the soft calm voice will help them pull back from the perceived danger.

Once our children have calmed down can we try to engage in a short conversation – no more than 3 sentences as to why the boundary is there. Ie, I cannot let you play with the knife. It is dangerous. You can get hurt. 

The impact of negative emotions on a child

A child’s main survival instinct is to be close to their parents or primary caregiver. They are completely vulnerable to the outside world, relying on us to help them make sense of the world around them and inside of them. As humans we are wholly flesh and wholly emotions. We use emotions to navigate the world around us. Basically deciding if something is safe by deciding how it makes us feel. 

We feel emotions with our whole body, it is not just in our minds, emotions triggers hormones that impact how our body functions. Negative emotions often expressed as a tantrum is something that makes our bodies feel “bad”. Children under the age of 3 perceives this “bad” feeling as a real life threat to them. It becomes a body snatcher as they have little to no control over this reaction. Their brain goes to survival mode and they only know that crying has made the primary caregiver respond quickly. When kids get overwhelmed with the negative emotion, they scream and tantrum. 

We see the remnants of the tantrum body snatcher in adults, when we ourselves stomp our feet or clap our hands to draw attention to our frustration or anger. Adults have a fully mature brain and can sense our emotions build up. We should be able to find a safety hatch to redirect our negative emotions too. Kids do not have that – That override switch actually only fully mature at the age of 25.

Why you never walk away from a tantrum

So why should we not walk away or throw a tantrum next to our child when they have a tantrum. Firstly a child has no physical or mental control over how they react. They feel threatened and their brain is telling them that they are actually going to die now. When we walk or run away, or even flop down next to them, expressing the same fear signals they are using. Our kids’ brains interpret this behavior as a sign of danger, we are exactly as scared as what they are.

So fight did not work. They might be immobile or strapped in, so flight isn’t going to work either, the next response then is, freeze. So they fall quiet. The problem is, they are just quiet, still in distress and the hormones that inhibits the oxygen to the brain is even higher. They are now physically preparing to die. This teaches a child that we are unable protect them. There is no reason to trust and believe that this person will be able to protect them.

If you have followed one of these strategies before. I would urge you to stop and rather lean into a tantrum. Allow them to express their fear and anger – remember anger is the gatekeeper of all the negative emotions.

Parenting tantrums in a healthy way

While holding them, if they are not flailing or fighting, whisper calmly that you are there and that you can hear their anger and fear.

Tell them that they are safe and you will not go away from them. They have all the time in the world to work through this emotion. When the tears and crying are done, we can start a rational discussion with our kids.

Join us in our Workshop: Parenting Toddlers (age 0 to 3) Click here and scroll down for more information.

You can also watch this video https://youtu.be/HX7JOEPcP58 on how to parent tantrums in a healthy way.

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