Wyo4News Switchbacks: Parenting, Children, and Good Times

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October 9, 2022

by Ryan
Wyo4News feature writer

Children are awesome. Exhausting but awesome. 

The exhausting part can cause us to miss the awesome part. I have always struggled to enjoy being a parent. It is too easy to see parenting as drudgery. We often make a choice to survive when we could make a choice to thrive. The more we choose to thrive, the more likely our kids will thrive as well.

Thriving begins with a choice to take the initiative. When we become proactive, we put a stop to so many of the things that frustrate us. Here are a few ideas to help get ahead of your incredibly energetic and brilliant children.

Tell them what you expect.

Clear expectations help kids stay calmer. It’s not a miracle cure. Anxious kids will always have lots of questions, sure. But clarifying expectations, especially before new experiences, will greatly help allay their fears. 

Sometimes we forget that much of our children’s behavior is a response to fear. Young children have yet to develop the logical part of their brains. That means that, for the most part, they are just trying to survive. Because of this, it doesn’t take much to trigger their fight-or-flight responses. Sometimes we call those responses bad behavior.

Begin by talking to your kids. Tell them where they are going, what is happening, and the kind of behavior you expect. You will spare them some anxiety. The less anxiety your children experience, the more enjoyable they will be. Oh, and the less stressed you will be.

Besides, they can’t read your mind. Shoot, I can barely read my own. When I get stressed, I tend to get frustrated over unmet expectations. Expectations that I never communicated. Then my kids get into trouble over things that I expect them to know but never made sure to let them know.

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Have Solid Routines

Routines are like fences. They keep dangers out and joys in. We fence our backyard to keep our children and pets safe. When we do that we create a space for freedom but wrap it in safety. That’s what routines do. They give our children security so that they are able to learn and enjoy their freedom.

It’s amazing to me how powerful routines are to a struggling child. But, I have also experienced the frustration of a child whose routines were disrupted. So, regular bedtimes are worth the struggle. Build rhythms into your family calendar. Routines and rhythms accommodate a wide variety of experiences. When we use them, we stabilize our child’s world. 

The reason it helps is back to the issue of anxiety.  If you think about a child’s development in relation to their birth. For the first 9 months of their existence, they were secure and protected in their mother’s body. 9 months.  

So, your 4-year-old has spent 16% of their life in a secure and safe space. Your 3-year-old has spent 20% of their life there. Now they are out in this big, wide world. The only boundaries and safety they have are what you provide. 

Imagine the wonder and fear you experienced your first time in the ocean. Do you remember the first time you lost sight of the shore? How about the first time you experienced the top of a very tall building? Can you reconnect with the insecurity those new experiences created within you? Does that help you understand the base fear your child deals with and operates from every day?

Plan Some Boredom

Boredom gives a place for a child’s creativity to rise. Creativity enables focus and concentration. When a child uses their brain for play and creativity, they learn. Whenever they learn, their development rockets. 

I know how easy it is to allow distractions to mind our children. I, too, get tired of the endless barrage of questions and needs. But, creative kids become strong adults. The highest-paid skill in the corporate and entrepreneurial world is problem-solving. Creativity is critical, and boredom is what fosters it. 

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I know, it’s a little confusing. Give children structure, but then give them space to make their own structure. No one said this parenting gig was a cakewalk. I have often heard it said, “No one learns more than the teacher.” It is also true that no one experiences more personal growth than a good parent. 

Have Fun!

Ryan