Experimenting With Behavior
While we may not think our own children are thoughtless or rude at times, we may more readily notice this in other children. So why do kids of today sometimes seem so rude, and what can we do about it?
To understand children’s behavior, we need to understand them. As children grow they pass through developmental stages. At each stage certain characteristics become prominent When children are young and in the Primary and Elementary 1 classes at school, they are rather malleable. They respect adults, the giants of the world, they want to become like us adults, and they want our approval. This guides their behavior so that usually we can deal with them fairly easily. But as children grow out of the Elementary 1 class to the Elementary 2 (4thand 5th grades) and Level 3 (Middle School), their behavior begins to take a different form. What was once important to them – hooking up with us – has been replaced by a fervent desire, growing stronger by the days, to hook up with their peers. And with this change in interest come huge changes in the children’s behavior. One change that seems to unsettle us a lot is that our children aren’t as mannerly as they were, they’ve forgotten the “pleases” and “thank yous” that used to be a part of their vocabulary, they’re making snide remarks, they’re embarrassing us. We also notice that they’re obsessed with private matters, private from us. What’s more, they have a budding interest in members of the opposite sex, which will surely flower in full bloom somewhere in middle or high school. We worry that they don’t seem to be able to control themselves, they laugh at rude comments, they would rather pay attention to each other than their lessons; sometimes it seems like they think of nothing else but each other.
While this behavior varies in intensity from child to child, most of us can tell that our children are now interested and almost driven to create their social selves. They begin to work on relationships with classmates in a new way as girls become curious about boys and vise versa. Children of this age are in transition, and it’s a big transition for them. We can expect them to falter some.
But what can we do to soften these abrupt changes and to help our children moderate their behavior? First of all, we can try to reconnect with ourselves at that age and try to remember what was important to us then. We’re looking for common ground with our child. We can connect through that common ground. Think about your first boy or girl friend, or the first time you noticed someone in a different way.
Secondly, we can provide consistency in our children’s lives. So much is happening to them, we must somehow provide stability in a world that is shouting to them that it’s not safe and secure. But if you think about it, one reason that Maria Montessori grouped children of multiple ages together with the same teacher for a few years was to provide stability for the child. It makes the learning environment, including the teachers and children, something familiar for the child. It gives the child security in times of chaos.
Thirdly, monitor outside influences like movies, TV programming, music, and activities in which your children participate. Try to limit the influence of some of these media-driven crazes. Make clear boundaries for your children and stick to them. Do this with cheerful voices and pleasant smiles on your faces. We do want to stay connected with our children, not alienate them.
Next, be sure to engage in conversations with your children. I like the family dinnertime for this. I hope you are all able to sit during dinner with your children for a while and exchange ideas and events of your day. During these conversations, permit differences of opinions to be expressed. Acknowledge issues about which you don’t agree without forcing your children to adopt your opinion. But be sure to let your children know when you don’t agree with them and why.
Prepare your children for changes in routines or events. Start by telling your children what the event is. Then ask your children to think about ways you could all go together to this event and have fun without disturbing others or whatever your wished-for outcome is. This way of preparing children and early adolescents is very important. There are so many events that happen for which we take very little time to prepare our children. Maybe we think that because our children are older now, we don’t need to do this. But we do if we want our children to behave well and to be respectful of others; we need to take time to discuss our expectations and hopes with our children.
It’s normal for pre-adolescent and adolescent children to experiment with their behaviors. They’re trying to figure out who they are becoming. While they work on that, be kind and firm, set boundaries and state expectations, talk less and listen more. Learn to be less critical and more understanding of their stage of life. Like all things, it’s only temporary.
Comments are closed.
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher