The other big part is how we go about getting what we want or need without infringing on other people. Or, at least, keeping the needs of other people in mind. When your kids are little, it really is kind of difficult for them to maintain the house the way you might want it to be. It doesn’t fit with their developmental needs, their awareness, or their physical capabilities very well. They may endlessly drop things – out of the car window, from their high chair, or from the bathtub. That is just the deal. They are learning about fine motor control and object permanence and gravity. They need that. But as they get bigger, the whole mess thing can be reduced. They can learn about YOUR needs and desires. They really can. You don’t even have to time out them, or punish them. Really, they want to please you and just need to know how. There are other opportunities, too. Use your words describing your needs and how you feel. Even if they are too little to do anything about it. Just say it. “I am overwhelmed by this mess and I feel undervalued when I have to pick it all up.” Just hearing it, when honestly described, helps them learn about needs and compassion. Say the joyful things, too. “I am having so much fun watching your energetic learning.”
As an example, a few days ago, I was working in the yard with my back to an almost 3 year old, and he hit me with a stick right in the back. WOW! That was a surprise. I turned around and yelled at him. No, I didn’t really. What good would that do? I turned around and said, “Oh my gosh, you hurt me and hurt my feelings and made me so sad. We are friends and love each other. Why did you hit me?” His response? “I want to sword fight.” Well, of course we can sword fight. And we can do it in ways that don’t hurt each other. All he had to do was ask. He wasn’t trying to hurt me, he was trying to engage me. He needed connection. And, he needed to learn a better way to get that need met. I could have put him in time out, and he might have learned what not to do. At least in that exact situation, temporarily. The thing is, when he grows up and his wife is busy and not paying attention to him, he needs to have skills to ask for what he needs.
A little time went by, and I went back to finishing my project. He needed to know how to get my attention. I asked him to wait just a minute, gave him suggestions about what he could do while waiting, sang a song with him, and then we did what he wanted. He learned a tiny bit about waiting, about meeting his own needs, and about trusting me. Perhaps those are skills he will use one day.