Put yourself in their shoes
Try to view the world from your child’s point of view. Of course, the best way to see things from your child’s perspective is to pray and ask the Lord to show you. He knows your children inside and out. He understands exactly how they feel and what they’re going through, and He will show you if you ask Him.
With small children, it sometimes helps to physically come down to their level when you talk to them; squat, kneel, or sit on the floor next to them. On their eye level, you don’t seem so distant. Seeing the world from a child’s perspective also helps you understand why he sometimes feels intimidated when others tower over him, and most of the action is going on beyond his reach. To a small child high shelves may as well be ledges far up the face of a sheer cliff; adults seem like giants two stories high who fill their dwellings with equally huge furniture and facilities often completely inaccessible. An un-familiar house can seem like a land of giants to a tiny child. As much as possible, try to keep his things down where he can get them. You may not have a “child-sized” room and furniture, but at least provide stools (or sturdy boxes) for him to climb up on to get to the sink and other places he needs to be able to reach.
Realize that a child’s experience is limited
Even tiny misfortunes often get blown out of proportion in young children’s minds. Experience helps put things in perspective. You’ve learned through experience that certain things aren’t worth getting all upset or worried about. That cut finger will soon stop bleeding and hurting. Feelings of disappointment and loss will pass, and new joys will come in their place. Bad weather does eventually pass.
But small children don’t have your confidence that things generally work out in the end. They don’t have that frame of reference, because they haven’t experienced life enough yet. They need reassurance. They need you to explain things to them and comfort them.
Small children live in the moment. Now is where everything is happening. Now is all that matters. As they grow older, they will understand the principle of time and words like “tomorrow,” “later,” and “after.” Learning to survive disappointment—even everyday little things that seem so minute to us grown-ups—takes time and experience, and for young children it can be a painful process. It can also be painful for parents. It hurts to see your child get so upset, in-secure, and disappointed when his expectations aren’t reached, but you can speed up the healing process by showing sympathy and praying with him. It is just as important to encourage and reward him when he shows faith and confidence that things are going to work out.
When you know that your child is going to have a hard time with something, it is always good to prepare him a bit before the event so it does not come as such a shock. Anticipate a crisis coming on and try to preempt it: “Mommy is going to have to turn the video off soon because it is nearly time for your nap. You can watch for a little while longer, then we have to turn it off.”
Your example is your child’s best teacher
Parents tell a child but never teach,
Until they practice what they preach.
Children are great mimics. This is largely how they learn—by imitation. Children seldom forget what they see. They go more by what they see than by what they hear, more by your actions and attitudes than by your words. Your children are a reflection of you. Your own attitudes and example of faith become a standard to your children, and their actions and reactions will largely depend on yours.
Few others will have a greater impact on your child’s life than you, but the examples of others can have a big influence. TV viewing can have a pronounced effect on your child. TV is the modern world’s handiest, cheapest, and most relied-upon babysitter—but not by any means the most trustworthy or reliable! Many of the bad habits and ungodly attitudes that concern today’s parents when they see them in their children are the result of the children imitating the negative samples that they see on TV. It is wise to limit the influence of television, and monitor what your children—and you, in their presence—watch. What children see on TV and the bad examples that they see in others—especially children their own age or older kids they look up to—can quickly undo a lot of the good attitudes and behavior that you have worked hard to instill in them.
Pushing the praise button
Children thrive on being praised. It’s more important to praise a child for his good behavior than it is to scold him for his bad behavior. Try to accentuate the positive. Praising children for their good qualities is the best way in the world to get them to try harder to be good. Push the praise button, and they will do almost anything to please you. Sincere praise also helps them feel better about themselves, which is crucial to their growing up happy and well adjusted.
Excerpted from the book "Keys to Toddlers and Preschoolers", by Derek and Michelle Brooks. Copyright Aurora Productions. Used with permission.