Posted in Parenting

Finding Balance: Teaching Your Child to be Well-Behaved While Still Letting Them Be a Kid

I was in church on Sunday, sitting near the end of the pew and a little girl walked over to the side, in the middle of the service, and admired the way the stained glass window reflected colors on her drawing. She would put it on the floor and giggle, then pick it up, then put it back down and giggle again. After only 30 seconds or so her mom walked up and, looking embarrassed, took her daughter back to their seats.  Let me be clear: I’m not mommy-shaming here. That mom didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I would have probably done the same thing in that situation. It was a church service and I’m sure she didn’t want her daughter to be a distraction.

But I couldn’t help but think about that little girl… it’s possible that she perceived she was doing something wrong. She was in complete awe and wonder over the reflections of the stained glass and it’s a shame that it was interrupted… though maybe it was necessary at the time.

Another story… at my very first month of an internship I was working in a therapeutic setting with kiddos.  We gave out small prizes to kiddos who participated and followed directions during the session and after one session the kiddo I had been working with picked out bubbles.  He began blowing bubbles in the lobby and SQUEALED in delight.  One of my fellow interns “shushed” him and my supervisor was in the room.  She (very politely) said to let him squeal… basically to let him be happy and enjoy the bubbles.  The child wasn’t necessarily doing anything wrong… maybe he was using an “outside voice” by squealing, but he wasn’t hurting anyone.

What I’m trying to get at here is that I would hate to see parents squash their children’s happiness, joy, wonder, curiosity and/or awe… all in the name of being “well-behaved.”  That may sound odd coming from a behavior therapist, but I’m all about meeting goals to increase child/family functioning, not creating a little robot child who says “yes, ma’am” and never has any fun.

One of my favorite song lyrics is “let your eyes get wide when you look at the stars, with the same sense of wonder as a child’s heart.”  Yes, we want children to be well-behaved and to listen.  And yes, sometimes, depending on the social setting, we may have to interrupt them.  But maybe we go back and JOIN them in their discovery once it’s appropriate.  Maybe the mom at church can take her daughter back over to the stained glass windows after the service and enjoy the reflections.  Sometimes it might not be possible, but foster that child-like joy and wonder whenever you can!

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