Anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes in the company of a three year -old will know, that their favourite question is ‘Why?’
And do you know why?
Let me share a story that happened several years ago, which helped me to gain a clearer understanding on my definition of good and bad behaviour, that will also help us to answer that question.
Because before trying to manage our childrens unwanted behaviour, we first need to examine what exactly is good and bad behaviour?
One day, after nursery school, I was saddened to drop off a tiny three-year-old boy (he really was tiny for his age) that I cared for to his house.
There stood his Mother on the door step in floods of tears, as she greeted me apprehensively with; ‘How’s he been today?’
She was obviously anticipating the worst.
I relayed the information his Teacher had asked me to pass on, that, he had been cheeky and answering the teachers back, and had another ‘bad day again’ at nursery.
I personally thought, this young boy was a bright and inquisitive three-year-old. Neither naughty nor bad. Despite the fact, he had also answered me back a number of times that day when we were at the park.
I recalled as we were walking home, I had told him not to jump in the muddy puddles, to which he persisted in asking me;
Not one to answer with ‘That’s why!’
I exhausted every answer to his constant question; ‘But why?’ with answers such as;
‘Because you will get wet’
‘Because you’ll feel uncomfortable’
‘Because your Mum will be mad at you’
‘Because you’ll dirty your uniform’
‘Because you may catch a cold’
‘Because I said so!’
Until eventually, I had to stop and ask myself;
‘Why not let him jump in the muddy puddles?’
I soon found myself thinking; ‘It will not harm anyone really. We can always dry off and change our clothes afterwards. We get wet when it rains anyway and we don’t always catch a cold. Besides, it looks like lots of fun, so why not?’
It then dawned on me that this small boy constant probing for an answer to his question ‘But why not?’ was not cheeky back chat at all.
It was his way of genuinely trying to find the answers, to why he could not do it?
My reasons, such as he would get wet, seemed obvious and silly to him. Of course he would. That’s why he wanted to do it, that was all part of the fun. My excuses defied his logic, and that was the reason that made him persist with his questioning.
And it was his ingenious questioning, that led me to question the restraints that we put on ourselves and our children, each and every day.
If no one questioned things, progress would never happen in life. Science would not exist, and we would all be conditioned to do what we were told. Following others mindlessly, regardless if right or wrong or whether something makes sense or not.
It’s the same for our children, if they don’t question people or things in life, then they won’t be able to find the answers and progress.
That is the beauty of our young and innocent children, when we say ‘You can’t do that’ they ask ‘Why?’
Not necessarily because they are answering us back and being rude, but because they know that what we are saying they cannot do, is possible.
We unwittingly condition our children to accept our rational reasons as right, when actually some of them are absurd. If our children break or question our rules, this does not necessarily constitute bad or naughty behaviour, as in the muddy puddles example.
Often unwanted behaviour is misunderstood for being naughty, instead of being viewed as a child’s inquisitive, playful nature. The danger is, if some children do not conform or toe the line like everyone else, then they are classed as naughty instead of curious.
Sometimes we create rules for our children, that are not even our own rules.
Often, they are generic rules that have been passed down from our parents, teachers, friends or are deemed acceptable by society in general, and we don’t even question them. But that doesn’t always make them right. Just because something has always been a certain way, doesn’t mean that it should stay that way forever, or that everyone has to follow the same rules as everyone else. We need to remember this when implementing our own rules for our children to follow.
Every time we tell our children that they cannot do or have something, we must first ask ourselves why not?
Do our reasons really make sense to both ourselves as well as our children?