In observing families for my dissertation, I visited two families who on first glance were similar. Both had two-and-a half-year-old boys, and both moms did many of the actions I had observed that set parents up for success: each mother successfully flowed together and apart with her son throughout the day, letting him come in and out of her tasks, which she made inviting and fun. Both would take breaks for cuddles, snacks and play, then go back to their own activity or task. At the end of the day, however, I left one visit feeling inspired, while after the other I felt exhausted and wrung out.
The reason, of course, was the children themselves: one child was “enjoyable,” and the other was not. Was it their temperaments? Perhaps to some extent. However, both said no, both threw little fits, and both wanted to do things their own way. They were both typical almost-three-year-olds.
How to Help Children Become Enjoyable People
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how the mothers themselves where shaping their children. The mother of the “enjoyable” little boy would correct him when his tone turned rude. She would ask him to try again, and give guidance if needed. She reminded him to say “please” and “thank you,” and waited for him to do it. The other mom did none of those things. Although she was kind and respectful in the ways that she talked, she never seemed to expect him to be kind and respectful in return. He yelled and demanded and whined and she responded calmly and kindly as if it were perfectly normal, never correcting him or asking him to treat her differently.
I realized that being kind and respectful is not enough: we must expect and teach our children to be kind and respectful in return. For us to create a life that we and our children can both love, in order to truly enjoy our time with our children, we need to have a mutually responsive relationship— something truly possible to create, no matter when you start.
Warmly, ~Miss Faith
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