The other day, we stopped at a coffee shop before setting out for the day. The boys happened to be standing still and quietly waiting for our drinks to arrive (a rare occurrence). A woman with her two children (a couple years older than the boys) came over to us and said, “Your boys are so well-behaved, mine are never this good when we go out.”
The old me would have probably just politely thanked her and moved on, but I couldn’t do that this time.
I answered her, “My kids just happen to be quiet right now. Most of the time they are moving and asking questions- and just being curious. I think that is healthy.” She seemed genuinely surprised and replied, “I never looked at it that way. I’ve always felt guilty if they weren’t being quiet and patient when we go out.”
A 4-year-old isn’t an adult
Society tells us that well-behaved means behaving like a full-grown adult. We have set this into our minds and we have books teaching us how to “train” our babies. Compliments are given when our children are seen but not heard (are we living in 1912 or 2012? Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference).
Patience comes with age, but their little minds can learn at such a rapid rate that they get bored without stimuli. That is also why technology can overstimulate their brains. They need to be able to be active and learn what is going on in their surroundings.
Our children shouldn’t act like adults, that is not normal behavior for a 3,4,5,6…etc year old. We need to start teaching people what a healthy well-behaved child looks like in order to correct this potentially harmful information. We apologize for our children’s behavior all the time. We need to stop doing that, especially in front of them. I remember I apologized for Aram’s curiosity when he was about one year old and toddling over to a man eating at an outdoor cafe near us. I scooped Aram up and said “I’m so sorry…” The man stopped me, “NEVER apologize when your child acts like a child, view all chaotic aspects as a part of the joy and a blessing, because they are.” I’ll never forget that. I, obviously, would not let Aram continue going over there to disrupt this man’s meal, but we don’t need to apologize in these situations in front of our children – an “excuse me” would have been appropriate. Gentle direction and positive encouragement can go farther in this situation than getting embarrassed and indicating to children that they should be ashamed of their curiosity.
a 4-year-old isn’t a 2-year-old
So your child doesn’t act like a thirty-year-old at three? Good! When your child really is thirty, they will have a greater chance of being a well-developed individual because you allowed him/her to act like a three-year-old and not skip directly into adult behavior. Obviously, gentle direction is a good and necessary part of parenting. There is a reason that the boys are more likely at 4 and 5 to wait patiently at the coffee shop than they were at 2 and 3. They have been guided and encouraged to behave as 4-year-olds, which looks differently than behaving like a 2-year-old. But let’s just remember…so much could be missed if children cannot experience their true biological age.