Would you rather deal with someone who was arrogant, sassy and full of bravado or someone who was dignified, mischievous and quietly self-assured?
I’m guessing that most of us would choose the latter and we’d make that decision with good reason: we resonate with the sensations of those around us. We can’t help it; our biology dictates that we stay in sync with others in order to stay part of the group. In previous times this ability or lack thereof meant life or death.
Arrogance, sassiness and bravado are signs that a person is somewhat stressed – of course degree matters…the more intense the stress, the more likely a person displays one or more of these behaviours. Dignity, mischievousness and self-assurance are signs that a person has well co-ordinated brain and body systems and carry some, even if it’s a tiny amount, conscious awareness of the process they went through to get to this state. Our brains automatically recognise all this, even if we are not consciously aware of it. Some people we are drawn to. Others, not so much.
Children can go through stages of arrogance; the one I most noticed happened for both our older sons at around the age of five. I have also observed this stage in other children at the same age.
Arrogance is a low level tantrum – as any sign of misplaced stress is a form of tantrum in my book. And arrogance is one of those combination jobbies: Reaction Tantrum and Processing Tantrum at the same time.
Reaction Tantrum because it’s a sign of feeling emotionally unsure or somewhat emotionally disconnected from others.
Processing Tantrum because the conscious brain/ego/will doesn’t like the information it’s being sent and tries to block the flood of information the rest of the brain is sending it. This is a very uncomfortable state to be in and, bless our cotton socks, we would rather avoid the new understanding than allow the changes to take place in our brain – despite the fact we would feel much more at ease in our bodies if/when we do so.
So, back to the five year-olds.
Here’s my take on the whole five year-old arrogance thing:
1. During the ages of around 3.5 and 4.5 yo our children are meant to throw a few tantrums. This is the age and stage they are meant to start the process of becoming conscious that they are separate individuals from their mothers/main-caregivers. Parents who can hold clear boundaries without resorting to bribery, reasoning or meanness know that these become fewer and less intense over time.
2. After this year to 18 months of processing their brains have been forced to make new patterns…these are awesome patterns to have because they are the ones which set us up for co-ordinating whole brain function in a synchronised manner. The information from the more powerful non-conscious/unconscious parts of the brain can more easily feed information into our weaker conscious awareness…if these patterns are present.
3. At around 4.5 yo, or thereabouts, there are lots of new pathways but they aren’t yet finished. I reckon, it’s between 4.5 and 5.5 that these are completed.
4. So, what does this mean? As each of these new patterns completes, the kidlets suddenly become consciously aware they are not the same people as their mothers. This completely freaks out their emotional brain systems. Stressed emotional brain systems are not fun to have. They are distressed and want to emotionally connect. Except, the children now feel disconnected because we are not them and they are not us. Each has to learn that we, as parents, will still love and nurture them…even though we are separate people. They lose confidence in their ability to get us to nurture them as they want/need us to nurture them.
5. Of course, we know we’re separate to them, which could well be why we miss the importance and seriousness of this in the lives of our children. We know we will still love them and will nurture them. But they don’t. And it’s the ‘they’ in parenting that matters. (Sorry about that; biology did it.)
6. Because they feel separate from us and unsure of our relationship, their conscious brain/ego/will thinks it needs to be in charge. Heavens knows why…it causes more problems than not some days. Anyhoo, rather than just being able to feel a need and have it met by their parents the arrogant 5 yo tries to use conscious will to make us to what they want us to do. They get bossy and somewhat rude in the manner they speak to us.
(Well nurtured children with highly attuned parents and a house that is mostly calm/quiet plus heaps of free playtime will possibly show this more clearly because they haven’t experienced a lot of stress prior to this stage.)
7. What to do?
7A. Well it’s a double sided tantrum so it needs a double sided approach. First we need to be sure that we will not accept rudeness or being ordered around by our child. Polite requests with gentle tone of voice are one thing; the other version of requests is not cool. Initial passive-aggressive patterns are thought to be established by the age of five, so learning to make direct requests is key. The advantage that children, who are corrected on tone of voice arrogance issues, have is that they learn to recognise passive-aggressive people and know that they mean “Danger Will Robinson.” This gives this massive advantages in friendships, dealing with unpleasant (passive-aggressive) authority figures etc – where others might just feel uncomfortable and be taken in by those suckers.
7B. Make a super-duper effort to key in on an emotionally connective level. Loads of non-intrusive eye-contact, heaps of appropriate touch, masses of mischief time with their important adults.
8. And patience. This too will end.
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