Over the years I have been guilty of giving or putting my children in situations with too much stimulation and then wondering why their behavior goes awry. We forget sometimes that our children are people and just like us they are born with likes and dislikes. Just as situations or circumstances make us unhappy they can also make our child unhappy. We as adults often react unfavorably to different environments or stimulations so why are we surprised when our children do the same?
I recognised this early on with my first child in a big way. She was born a very calm and congenial child and was very laid back. The first time I realized that she had very distinct likes and dislikes was her first Christmas when she was about nine months old. We, like many new parents, had purchased quite a few gifts for her to open. Not only that but our family and friends had also brought gifts over for her first Christmas.
We sat her in the middle of the room and surrounded her with her gifts to watch her open them. She was fine as she began to open her first gift and like any nine month old she began to play with that gift. We wanted her to open the rest so we gently took it from her and gave her another gift. She sat still for a minute and you could see the wheels turning in her mind as she tried desperately to make sense of this situation. She looked at the gift she had opened, the one in her lap, and then looked around at all the others. When her brain finally registered that these were all her gifts and she had to open them all it was way too much for her to handle. She broke down and began to cry to the point of hysteria! We realized it was too much for her and we quickly began picking up the gifts and taking them out of the room. We had to take her out of the stimulation and get her quiet. We ended up letting her open the presents up one at a time on different occasions from our family and friends. We opened ours and just pulled them out of the closet from time to time. Lesson learned.
This happened several more times when she was a baby with different situations. She did not like surprises and it took her some time to accept strangers. You could not simply throw this child into a new situation because she would fall apart. And in case you are thinking I mean she just cries a little and I am an over sensitive parent that is totally not the case. She would become so disoriented that she did not even seem to recognize her mom or dad. She had to be taken in to a completely calm and quiet place and it took her sometimes thirty minutes to an hour to get her composure.
She is a young adult now and still does not like change but she has overcome her tendency to freak out. She does have strict guidelines on what she can tolerate and what she can not. She will not put herself in a position that she feels overwhelmed, and she avoids people that do not adhere to her comfort requirements. I may be making her sound like a snob of sorts and she is absolutely not, but she does know what she wants and what situations to avoid preventing herself from going into overload. If you think about it we all do this as adults if we are smart. Why put yourself in a situation that makes you anxious, unhappy, angry, or uncomfortable?
In the situation of my daughter it was very obvious what over-stimulated her. With other children it may not be as clear. And sometimes you have to differentiate between a child just wanting to dictate your life and really being in a situation they can not handle. How many times have we all run across a child in the grocery store or department store who is crying and unhappy? I have observed these children’s behaviors and most of the time I can tell if they are spoiled and trying to make their parents lives miserable, if they are extremely fatigued and need to get to their quiet place, or they are in an environment that is over-stimulating them.
I know many parents think that a child should just be trained to go wherever they want them to and adapt to whatever situation they are in. After all the parents should not have to give up what they want just to please the child, should they? Would we be so inconsiderate to another adult? If your spouse or your elderly parent’s nerves were so frayed that they could not spend time in a busy mall or they would have a melt down would you force them to go? I say we would not. But we take our children into these situations and then ignore their crying or even discipline them when they are overwhelmed. Now, you must examine and evaluate your child to determine what the real situation is. You can not spoil your child by giving in to their every whim. What I am saying is that sometimes they actually can not handle different situations depending on their personal dispositions.
My second child is a boy and he seemed to be able to roll along with every situation he was put into. Notice that I used the word seemed. He did not react like his sister to multiple gifts and strange places or people. He did not burst into tears and become uncontrollable in nature. But as time went by I noticed that when he became over-stimulated we had so many more behavioral problems with him. He acted out because he did not analyze the situations as his sister and compute that there was an overload and then react. He flowed with the stimulation and fed upon it.
If you notice that your child’s behaviour problems are accelerating then it would be wise to take them to a quiet place and do something calming. If this alleviates the problems in behavior then you have found that whatever circumstance they are in is too much for them. Sometimes as they age these problems rectify them selves and they are able to adapt. Other times it is just a matter of disposition and like and dislikes in an individual. We can not all be the same. Some of us thrive in malls, some do not. Some of us love to listen to rock and roll but others can not abide by it. We as adults either love being in a crowd, hate it, or simply learn to tolerate crowds. Children are people and have the same emotions and likes and dislikes and we can not expect them to embrace things just because we do.
Now we must be careful and watch our children because we do not want to simply give into their selfish whims. They can not be allowed to dictate everything that we do in our lives as adults. Because as human nature goes if they find out that you will respond in their favor every time they cry they will push it to the limits. But we must be sensitive to their real needs, likes, and dislikes as people so as not to push them into acting out in their behavior. Little ones can not tell us how they feel, they do not even realize what the problem is, and they are counting on us to love them and care for them and understand when they need help. Be watchful and observe your little ones so that you can prevent un-needed discipline problems and trauma for both of you.
About the author
Always curious, Ashley Hardway is constantly learning and passionate about sharing what she learns with others. Based in the Houston, Texas office of Morningside Nannies, she loves to help families grow stronger, help their environments and communities, and keep moving forward! Check out @NannyLady on Twitter to connect and find out more.