All characteristics we want our children to develop have an upside and a downside. The seeds for the upsides start with a walk through the downside. Let’s look at clever, innovative, inventive, and smart as an example.
When children are very young, they take what you say to be exactly what you say. If you say, they can’t “stand” on the couch, that is different to them than “jumping” on the couch. Children’s brains are working overtime to figure things out. They are searching for how they can get their needs (or wants) met – even if those needs are unsafe or unreasonable by adult standards. If they can’t do or have one thing, they are figuring out what they can do or have instead.
When you put children’s determination to get what they want together with their taking everything you say as exactly what you say (nothing more and nothing less), it is easy to get the downside – sneaky, getting-around-the-rules, manipulation, and disobedience. The good news is that consequences for the downside behaviors – delivered by caring adults – can guide them to the upside.
Children can learn that the downside behaviors don’t really work. Then, they can start trying upside behavior to see how that works. The next thing you know, they have become clever, innovative, inventive, and smart kids.
Inspired by BETTY BUNNY LOVES CHOCOLATE CAKE by Michael B. Kaplan