Being a parent/carer can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride. It goes from moments of sheer joy and perfection to moments where we are really challenged and confronted by our own emotions and the emotions of our little people. Parenting has come a long way and we can be thankful that as we learn more about brain development and child development we can understand more about children’s behaviour and how to support them.
Sometimes when we are confronted with our children’s behaviour, we can fall into the habit of discussing them and their behaviour with other people right in front of them. We may talk to our co-parent/carer about how our child never looks after their belongings, whilst our child is sitting in the room listening. We may discuss with the preschool teacher their behaviour from the day and how they are always hitting and how frustrated we are by their behaviour all while our little person is standing by and taking this in. Often when we do discuss these behaviour issues we can also jump to labelling- “why are they so lazy? Why are they so aggressive? Even when we are frustrated or concerned about our children’s behaviour it is so important for us to pause and remember that the way we speak about children and the way we speak in front of children really matters. Imagine if our partner came into our workplace and asked our boss how our day was and then they proceeded to discuss your behaviour as if you weren’t there. “Look she had an okay day, but she is really slow on email responses and there was that phone call I heard her take and passive-aggressively argue with a customer.” It wouldn’t feel great to hear a list of our difficult moments. One of the essential tasks as the carers of young children is to help them develop a positive self-concept.
According to PositivePsychology.com – Helping You Help Others this is how we can think of self-concept…
“Generally, theorists agree on the following points:
- On the broadest level, self-concept is the overall idea we have about who we are and includes cognitive and affective judgments about ourselves;
- Self-concept is multi-dimensional, incorporating our views of ourselves in terms of several different aspects (e.g., social, religious, spiritual, physical, emotional);
- It is learned, not inherent;
- It is influenced by biological and environmental factors, but social interaction plays a big role as well;
- Self-concept develops through childhood and early adulthood when it is more easily changed or updated;
- It can be changed in later years, but it is more of an uphill battle since people have established ideas about who they are;
- Self-concept does not always align with reality. When it does, our self-concept is “congruent.” When it doesn’t, our self-concept is “incongruent.” (Cherry, 2018B; Gecas, 1982).”
Children hear what we say and if this is often negative it can start to build a self-concept of themselves that is negative. They can respond to the labelling of themselves by embracing those negative ideas- “if my teacher/parent says I am naughty that must be a part of who I am.” We want children to not think that their behaviour is who they are but that the way they behave is an outward expression of feelings or something happening internally. We will sometimes not make the right choices in life but that is a choice that we made not who we are as a person.
We need to remember to be building our children up, promoting to them, and to others around them all the wonderful things they can do and how unique and amazing they are. This also needs to be an authentic expression of what we really feel about our children not over the top and fake praise. Children want to know you are interested in them and who they are, they want respect, support and connection, just like we all do.
When behaviour concerns arise, we need to look at these as opportunities to support them and provide boundaries. Conversations should be had with teachers and coparents, but this should be done in a respectful way and as much as possible not if front of children. We should then calmly be able to come up with limits and boundaries which we can clearly and kindly express to our children so they understand the expectations. Children are still learning and will need help to self-regulate their behaviour and emotions and if the supporting adults in their life can do this with a consistent approach it is beneficial to our little people. We should look at ourselves as being our children’s cheerleaders in the world and an emotionally safe space to land. Being a parent or a carer is not always something that comes easily either and we are lucky that we live in an age where there is a wealth of online support and real-life support to help us to do the best job, we can with the resources we have.
At Wonderschool our educators are constantly updating the tools they have in their toolbox to help support children and families in these early years. We practice approaches that align with our values and our vision of children as capable and confident people. We use the techniques of emotion coaching and respectful caregiving practices which help from infancy to build a positive self-concept in children. We feel so privileged to be able to work with young children and their families to be helping put in the essential building blocks for mentally healthy children and communities.
Please remember to reach out if there are aspects of parenting you are struggling with and remember that Wonderschool is a community that supports children and families in these early years.
Susan Foy – Senior Manager Communications & Curriculum
Some great resources for families to utilise when encountering any behavioural challenges with children: