Tuesday, June 1, 2010

day 149: preschoolers and deference

“Josiah slept FOREVER today, so I got bored. It stopped raining after lunch, so Mommy said I should go outside and jump on the trampoline—I think I was getting on her nerves. My three big sisters got done with their school work and came out and jumped. We played ‘California Earthquake’ until Mommy finished her writing on the computer.” “Jonathan’s Journal”

Jonathan was in the process of learning deference and patience while Mommy was busy! We stressed character training with our children from their births. Part of that character training was that of learning deference. Deference is a big word that simply means “prefer” or “defer” to someone else. It is a character quality that we desperately need in our world! In our me-saturated society, we seldom defer to others—that is, put others above ourselves.

One way that our little ones can learn deference is to defer and be patient when their wants cannot be addressed right at that moment. (Notice I said “wants”—not “needs.”) Jonathan was sent outside to jump on the trampoline with his sisters so that Mommy could get something done. (As he put it, “I think I was getting on her nerves!” He’s always been a smart one!)

When our third child Cami was six years old and outgrew her nap, she would follow me around when I was trying to have lunch, read, plan, etc., asking me questions, wanting this or that, etc. I had been used to her taking a nap and having a little free time, but not anymore! (Keep in mind I had already given her and her siblings at least six hours straight of my time—reading, playing, doing school, learning together, overseeing chores, etc.) Finally, I had to set the timer every afternoon for thirty minutes and tell her that during that thirty minutes she couldn’t bother Mama. She watched the timer go down every afternoon at first, waiting until she could use all of the words she had stored up in that half hour, but eventually, she learned to let Mommy have a little break. (We all still tease her about being so high need we had to set a timer for a thirty-minute-no-need period of time, and it is probably part of the reason why the “little” boys have dubbed her “Needy Child Number One” when she calls—the other older kids are Numbers Two, Three, and Four, of course!)

Preschoolers and toddlers do have a lot of needs. That is one of the reasons that we stress the Preventive Parenting ideas that we do—naps, schedules, room time, activities, story time etc. all help channel these littles ones into a daily routine that is good for them and Mom. However, they also must learn the difference between wants and needs—and that sometimes wants must wait for a little while.

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