Every parent has experienced the phenomena of their child begging for their favourite story to be read, their favourite song to be played or their favourite movie to be watched for the 100th time.
Even though we adults might be tempted to hide the favourite book or introduce a new book, CD, or DVD, we must stop ourselves because our children are actually teaching us a huge lesson about how they want and need to be parented.
When our children repeat a request for their favourite story to be read, it is because they have an innate interest in ‘mastery’. Of course they love to explore new toys, corners, books and movies, but once the all-important excitement of discovery has occurred, children set out to ‘master’ the things that interest them the most.
Mastery occurs through repetition. Young children are driven to discover and then master all aspects of their world.
Discipline is another area in which children innately crave mastery. Children test their parents because they are trying to figure out how their world works and what is acceptable behaviour. While they do their research they do things consciously and unconsciously to investigate their world and it’s limits so that they are able to ‘master’ it.
The best thing parents can do is to learn a simple methodology for discipline, get trained to use it and then apply it consistently. This will decrease the number of times their child needs to test and will diminish the intensity of the testing. Children whose parents often use different strategies, use bribes or threats become very confused and unsure of themselves. It is for this reason that many parenting experts say that discipline makes children feel safe and secure.
One can liken children’s feelings to the experience of hiking down a trail with very few trail signs or markers. It’s confusing! Without clear signals to keep one on course, one is more likely to make wrong turns and get into trouble. This is what it’s like for children as they try to learn the path of acceptable behaviour. When limits are unclear or inconsistent, children often steer off course and get into trouble, thus making mastery of acceptable behaviour very difficult and unsettling.
So, as you spend time with your child, remember what it is that they crave the most…mastery. Let’s be conscious of this and then make a decision to help them master their world with confidence and ease.