Look at this face! You would never guess that I have THAT child. Oh you know. . . .the one who bites HARD, the one who kicks, the one who throws trucks at other children’s heads. I have that child. Over the years I have spent a lot of time with children other than my own. I worked in church childcare 4+ days a week for 7 years. I taught preschool and PreK. I spent years with autistic children. I have experience with children and discipline and behavior. The problem is, I always saw “that” child as being the child who was in full time daycare. Because of course, products of daycare are hellions, right? They are exposed to other children’s bad behaviors and they are influenced to act that way also. Or maybe the parents aren’t doing enough. They are letting their children run amuck and don’t discipline them. And that’s where the problem begins. What a horrible mentality to have. My child is not in daycare. She only goes to church childcare for an hour a week and to our gym childcare for 1-2 hours a week. I am her biggest influence! This realization has shocked me—the realization that my child is the product of a SAHM (Stay at home mom) and does these things that I have never modeled.
Funny thing is, I am not that bothered by the fact that she bites. Many moms tell me that she will grow out of it. I know this is true & pray for that day to come soon. She will NOT be a 10 year old who bites her friends. At least. . .I’m pretty sure she won’t be. But nevertheless, I am not concerned that she bites. What concerns me is the perception that others have of children who bite & how it makes the mom of a biting child feel about her performance as a mom. We question ourselves enough and certainly don’t need to add this to our lists.
When I worked in childcare as a young college student, we were very judgmental. Any act of the child was directly related to how the parents disciplined, or so we thought. What a horrible attitude to have. I kept this attitude until I had my own child in my 30’s! My opinion changed drastically after I saw with my own eyes how much a child’s personality type can affect their behavior. I knew my little girl’s personality within a few weeks of her birth. She was always very determined & “spirited”. While parents do have a very important role in their child’s behavior, not every act of our children can be prevented. And on the flip side, just because you have a compliant child doesn’t mean that you are an awesome discipliner. I bet I just burst someone’s bubble!!!! If your child is pretty compliant without you intervening, chances are, your child’s personality is very easy going.
As much as I hate to admit it, we can’t have complete control over our children. They have their own personalities & are certainly not puppets. I have a very strong willed & determined child. Her personality is vibrant and energetic! She doesn’t just follow the rules because “I said so.” She has to test the rules. She is a sweet, empathetic, loving little girl. She is smart & loves to sing. She is also an easily frustrated little girl when things don’t go her way. And the result of that feeling is usually biting, hitting, or kicking. Toddlers, even those who have an amazing vocabulary, still have a hard time connecting their emotions with words. They still connect emotions with actions. For many children, they are not able to fully express themselves verbally until 4-5 years old. While these acting out behaviors are not ok or permissible, they are understandable & very NORMAL. Acting out doesn’t make a child bad.
I am thankful that I have had many church childcare workers who were empathetic to us and very encouraging. They didn’t make me feel like a bad mom. They didn’t make my child feel bad either. But there have been a few workers at our gym and church who were just fed up with her behavior & I could tell when I walked up to the door. There is no worse feeling as a parent than knowing your child is “in trouble” and has angered the staff. These folks probably don’t act this way intentionally. They just don’t understand. Most of them are super nice individuals and care for the children. But unfortunately, in my mind, those negative encounters have influenced me more than the encouragement I have received. All the more reason to take the time to give encouragement to the parents out there as often as possible! Being a parent can feel like a gamble. Many of us question whether we are “doing it right” or not on a regular basis.
Parents, caregivers, childcare workers, grand parents, friends: Go easy on the moms. It isn’t easy being the mom of a toddler. We work until our body is bone tired trying to keep the house in order, teaching our children how to be Christ-like and compassionate to others, taking care of the dogs, finding time to spend time with our husbands and preparing meals for everyone in the house, keeping in touch with parents who live far away, maintaining friendships. Maybe you don’t mean to judge us, but you may wonder if we parents are doing enough to discipline our children. Maybe it has been 30 years since you were in our shoes. Do you remember these hard times? Do you remember how hard it was to deal with potty training and biting? Take some time to remember the way it really was. Maybe you have never had your own children, but you have taken care of many children over the years. Someday you will understand and empathize with those moms who had to deal with biting and kicking and spitting. And before you say I will never let my child act like that, remember that our children are not puppets. Instead be understanding. Give us the benefit of the doubt before criticizing.
This week, take the time to notice a parent of a toddler. Even if it is a stranger in a store. Offer a word of encouragement to let her know that she/he is doing a great job. A small word of praise can go a long way.
Even though this was written from the perspective of a mom, there are dads out there who have experienced similar feelings and situations. This blog is for all of you parents out there!