Part 2: Things we inadvertently teach children

Published Sep 5, 2018 at 4:00pm

In Part 1 of this series I took a look at Missed Opportunities For Teaching Children. Missed it? You can find it here: https://jenniemazzajones.com/part-1-missed-opportunities-for-teaching-children/.

Now, I want to take a look at some things we may be doing and their unintended consequences. 

Because kids learn more from what we do than what we say. Because they are constantly watching us, looking to us for the next move. They are continually learning from our role modeling. 

Even though this can be terrifying. It can also be an amazing opportunity to use the way we interact with children to help them learn and grow. 

Let’s take a look at some common scenarios and what children learn from them.  

When children are rushed by adults: Life is busy and we have things to do, it’s just easier if we put the jacket on for them. They are taking too long to pack their sports bag, it’s faster to do it for them. We have an appointment to get to, there is no time to stop and look at the worm on the ground.

Young children are so dependent on the adults in their lives that it’s hard for the adults to not take over. And I get it, as a society we are rushed. There is constant pressure to get it done and on to the next thing; so, even as kids grow there is the temptation to do for them what they can do for themselves.

On the flip side however, when we do this, we are creating dependence and taking away opportunities to learn to try. They learn they are not capable of Velcroing their own shoe. That we do it best. That there is no time for slowing down to soak up the beauty of the present situation. That there is no time to look at that flower. That life must go quickly. 

When adults force kisses on children or force them to hug or kiss a family member: They are shown that they are not the authority on their own body. That their feeling of aversion or discomfort can’t be trusted. That they need to give into the will of others. We are living in the age of consent and #metoo. It’s important to help kids understand what it means to have authority over their own bodies. When we allow children to speak for themselves we are showing them what it feels like to be respected, which in turn helps them learn to respect others. 

When we fix situations for them: We hate to see our children struggle. Like when they can’t get the wagon to hook up to the back of their toy tractor and they are crying in frustration (the story of my daily life), or when it seems like they spend every game sitting the bench, or when they are fighting with friends. These situations can feel like absolute torture and it’s natural to feel like we need to “fix” them.

However, “fixing” it for them doesn’t contribute to helping them learn or grow into the independent adults we know they can be. Instead of hooking up the wagon for them, we can allow them to work at it through the frustration while validating their experience and offering encouragement. Instead of talking to the coach, we can brainstorm with them ways to speak to the coach on their own.

Instead of confronting their friend for them, or telling them how to handle a social situation, we can ask for their thoughts on what they think they should do and support them through it. These alternatives can serve to help kids learn to manage the frustration, disappointment and sadness all while having an adult as a supportive and encouraging presence.

Was this helpful? Email me your thoughts at jennie@jenniemazzajones.com.

Are you feeling like the daily struggle is just too much? Are you worried your child may have needs that extended beyond what you are currently able to offer them? Do you live in Central New York? If you are interested in learning more about psychotherapy and play therapy for your child I can be reached at 315-737-3094 or jennie@jenniemazzajones.com

Jennie Mazza Jones, LCSW, RPT, CCPT has a private practice located in Clinton NY, where she specializes in providing psychotherapy to children and their caregivers utilizing Play Therapy. Jennie helps kids who long to feel accepted, want to do well, and wish they could control their worries, anger, and behaviors, but struggle because they communicate in a way that many adults don’t understand. She also helps parents/caregivers who want to help the important children in their lives reach their truest potential, but are afraid to make the wrong move, fear the worst, or are just unsure of what to do next. Jennie can be reached 315-737-3094, jennie@jenniemazzajones.com and www.jenniemazzajones.com