Children need boundaries. It provides not only a sense of security but teaches them where they fit in the world. Children learn boundaries by what we do. When they are small, they are dependent on us to survive. We feed them, pick them up, help them dress and wash, herd them when we are in a rush, buckle, on and on. But at some point this must change. Many children with behavioral problems suffer because they do not understand healthy boundaries. They hit, take others things, do not want to share, do not follow rules, etc. Even though true autonomy is a slow transition as a child grows, teaching a child he/she is responsible should happen as soon as they understand they are separate from you. This empowers them to make choices and realize what we do matters. We often forget to teach a child that he/she is the boss of his/her own body, and that they are ultimately in control of what happens to them.
Often we forget children need transition time… between events, tasks, and even normal day to day activities. It’s almost as if children accumulate and store pent up energy that needs to be expelled, before they can settle into another task. Ask any school teacher or provider, they will attest to this collective time between one activity and the next. This time is often missed as we try quickly to get them to bed, brush their teeth, or even sit down for a meal, and it often ends in frustration and angst. Transition time doesn’t have to be long but realized and naturally built into a child’s day. Doing this not only makes life as a parent easier (who learns to expect this rather than get frustrated), but it also allows the child the time to release the energy, and mentally and physically prepare for the next thing.
As a mother, often the littlest accomplishments by our children become our greatest successes. After 7 years of buckling 3 children into their car seats (every day, every car ride, every child), each time one started doing it themselves I felt like I won the lottery… And yesterday my youngest, my 3 year old, was gleaming ear to ear as I hopped in the back seat to do buckle him up, and he had done it himself. While these moments are bittersweet of letting go we also regain our independence, as they gain theirs. We forget how much we do daily in our role as a caretaker, and it isn’t until one of those “jobs” is removed do we remember how much, and how it once again feels, to only have to buckle ourselves… © Jodi Healy
Losing my dining room and setting it up like a center based preschool may seem excessive, but believe it or not, I am able to quietly make phone calls, meals, check emails, and even go to the bathroom alone! Daily I rotate toys and facilitate activities and learning, and still with my 7 year old when she is home from school. (I will explain how in future posts!) When my children were babies and toddlers the room provided a safe place to explore and be independent (without Mommy). And yes of course sometimes I don’t feel like doing anything or miss days… It may seem overwhelming or like more work but it actually grants me time to do things like writing this (today is a snow day and my children are playing store). I set up and facilitate an activity then let them play, and separate myself from them so I am not their source of entertainment (of course I am close by to meet a need, answer a question, and engage here and there). The room is a dedicated place for them, that is theirs, for learning, playing, and making a mess. A mother or the full time provider has the most influence. We have a wonderful opportunity to facilitate learning, beyond caretaking, before full time school and beyond…