Kids are Individuals, Too
For a while now I’ve been struck by how friends and acquaintances describe their children. I hadn’t realized it, but part of me still sees the kids as an extension of myself. Of course I know that they’re individuals with their own likes and dislikes, but I guess I haven’t spent so much time naming all of those individual qualities in each of the three of them. We continue to offer limited choices in order to simplify our days, and in the process, sometimes forget that perhaps they’d like a different option. Even after 2+ years, we’re still just struggling with being parents and our own identities, so that we are only barely beginning to understand their identities. Today, I wanted to take the time to start that process. Here are some things to think about in seeing our children as individuals:
- What are activities that consistently light up their hearts?
- What stories do they ask for over, and over… and over? What music?
- Where does your child fall on Thomas and Chess’ nine temperamental characteristics: activity level, rhythmicity, approach or withdrawal, adaptibility, threshold of responsiveness, intensity of reaction, quality of mood, distractibility, and attention span and persistence.
- In what ways does your child show love to you? To others?
In doing this exercise over the past week, I’ve learned some things about each of my children:
- The Little One loves music, as well as her mommy and daddy. Put her with any of those three and she’ll be happy!
- The Little One also enjoys snuggling up with a book, or snuggling on someone’s lap while coloring. I can often distract her by saying one of those words when she’s about to tantrum.
- Our Middle One needs predictability and a measure of control. He waits until he knows he can do a task before doing it. This has shown up in language delays, potty training, and his art projects. And yet, when he does complete something he is so proud of it and wants to give it to those he loves.
- He picks out special presents (yesterday, it was flowers for me!) and thinks of fun ways to deliver them (think a mailbox stuffed full of colored pictures).
- Our Eldest needs one on one time. We’ve known this for a while! But what I didn’t realize was that she can be quite shy about giving love to me. She has a hard time saying thank you, and needs to hear at least 3 “I love yous” before she is able to reciprocate.
- Our eldest needs lots of affirmation in order to feel loved. When she’s getting that though, she becomes quite the little activist! She’s organized friends for a neighborhood clean-up and is so excited to try out volunteering at a soup kitchen.
So why go through this as an exercise? Why doesn’t the day-to-day interactions with our children suffice? I think that taking time to really think through each of our children’s strengths and personally traits enables us to help them to grow. Doing this exercise helped me realize that I can either intentionally foster things like my daughter’s activism, or participate in the squelching of it. I know which one I choose.