Visualise this: you’re happy, calm and you have well behaved kids. It can be done. Here’s how…
Parenting from your child’s point of view means shifting your orientation, and seeing the world from a new perspective. Instead of understanding your child from a “top-down” adult position, think and look at the world as if you were their age and size.
It’s something I think about every day as the director of the Barnard Center for Toddler Development at Barnard College, where I have had the pleasure of working with children and their parents for nearly two decades.
Having a toddler-centric view of the world is something I’ve come to develop over my years as an educator (and as the parent of three boys). But it didn’t necessarily come easily — thinking like a toddler means seeing many things as new, fascinating, or scary; it means having no real sense of time, and an unending curiosity about life.
It means not knowing why things happen or what came before. Clearly, the world looks different from this position. But here’s what I’ve discovered … approaching parenting from your child’s point of view is the key to better-behaved kids, happier parents, and a smoother home life.
Here are five parenting essentials I’ve learned by looking at the world from a child’s perspective.
1. Stay close, even when it's hard.
Our kids need us to stay close, even when they are pushing us away. They need us to be (or at least act!) steady when they falter. They need us to stay calm, even when they are agitated, upset, or plain difficult to manage.
Does this mean giving in all the time? Certainly not. But it does mean learning to accept that our children are good sometimes and bad sometimes. They need to know that we still love them even when they have a hard time or do things we don't like.
2. You're in charge.
Sometimes parents get confused about this. But even toddlers need limits, and they look to us to be the authority and let them know when to stop. One little girl I worked with, Leila, discovered a towel bar she could reach in the kitchen. She'd reach up high and grasp it, and her mother would tell her gently, "Don't pull on that," It worked at first, but over time Leila would look at her, not let go, and laugh. "Leila, sweetie, you know I have told you that will break and I don't want you to get hurt," her mother explained in a kind, reasonable voice. It became a game, and now Leila was testing her power.
"I thought I had to be kind and gentle and supportive all the time," her mother Diane told me. "I don't like to raise my voice. I want her to always count on me." I have heard this interpretation from other parents. Some are afraid of having their children get upset with them, and they do anything to try to keep it from happening.
But children cannot learn to handle being upset if they are not allowed to even get upset. By allowing your child her anger, she will learn (over time) to handle this emotion. Just as important, she will learn that even if she gets upset with mummy and daddy, she will still be taken care of. Setting limits actually builds children's trust.
3. Be consistent. (Mostly.)
Being consistent doesn't require rigidity. Think of consistency as a framework for your child's day, a frame of, "usually, we do things this way." For example: "I hear the bathwater running, now I take a bath. After bath, I'll get my pajamas on, and then we read a book."
Routines are not about rigid rules. I think of them more as little orange flags that guide the child through the day, stopping him from careening off the track. Kids can -- and should -- be enormously resilient if a routine is broken or altered on occasion. But it takes time to learn this.