Maturity, as many of you already know, is the main aim Craig and I have for our children. We define maturity as having all the aspects that Daniel Goleman identified as Emotional Intelligence: persistence; delayed gratification; planning; organisation; empathy; impulse control; social deftness; motivation and so on.
Of course, maturity emerges over many years and comes in waves – some days there is clear evidence of maturity on other days the boys revert to the less considered behaviours of the immature. For two-year old Mr Butterfly it’s as simple as stopping himself when we’ve said, No. For six-year old Mr Owl, being inclusive of others in his play at kindergarten shows a degree of maturity and an example for nine-year old Mr Hare would be those days when he can organise all of this equipment for the next day at school, without fuss.
One key thing we can do in order to parent our children into maturity is to help them manage when things don’t go their way. That means we don’t do the work for them, but we give them the skills to manage for themselves. If necessary, we would go with them to deal with an adversity or uncomfortable situation but, again, we wouldn’t be the ones doing the work.
‘When things don’t go their way’ can mean anything from friends not cooperating, to having do something they don’t want to do, to dealing with the word ‘No’, to falling over and hurting themselves, to coping when we won’t buy them stuff on demand, to facing-up to other people when they’re in the wrong, to paying of their own debt and so on.
It begins with Boring Cuddles (Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing.) – where a hurt baby/child is held but not shuusshed or fussed over. It continues with being firm about behaviours which are unacceptable and not using bribery and rewards to illicit appropriate behaviours. But it also means we are generous with hugs and positive eye-contact, and listening with our full attention when they speak to us. It means that we will make tough decisions (like having no electronics, or banning some children from our home, or being firm about bedtimes, or not having junk food in the house) when we can see that there is a negative effect on the boys, and we will enforce manners and other social niceties. All. The. Time.
Mr Hare is nine and now taking more responsibility for making his own tough decisions. We talk about making tough choices a lot: which children he is playing with when he gets into trouble at school; how to earn some money to pay off a $100 debt; four reasons why he shouldn’t swear at school; and we are considering allowing him a week to monitor his own electronic exposure and reactions for a week or so over our next summer break (Dec/Jan).
The importance of managing when things don’t go our own way becomes clear when we meet adults who cannot do this for themselves. It is a great tragedy of our wealthy western society that we have bred so many 30 and even 40/50 year olds who still think they are owed a life-style with little effort; adults who will say things aren’t fair yet not get off their chuffs and do something about their situation; or who bankrupt their elderly parents.
Managing when things don’t go according to our dreams/plans/expectations is a core factor in maturity, and we can help our children to develop it – we just can’t ‘do their push-ups for them’.
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