Little Shoulders

My grandmother had a lot of sayings.  “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”  “Do not throw upon the floor the food you can not eat.  For many a starving children would think it quite a treat.”  And when my husband asked if I was OK dating him at 10 years my senior, Grandma’s words jumped right out.  “Better to be an old man’s darling than a young man’s slave.”  (Though my then-suitor didn’t appreciate the old man reference at the tender age of 34.)  But apparently there was one I had forgotten until my mom used it the other day:

“You can’t put a big head on little shoulders.”

 It’s a quick reminder, in Grandma’s style, that you can’t expect a small child to think as an adult.  You can’t expect a child to act as an adult.  Children are, after all, children. 

And yet we do it from time to time.

We expect them to wait patiently without giving them something to do.  (And then get upset when they find something to do.)  We say things like, “the baby’s sleeping” but leave out the real message, “it’s time to be quiet”, and assume they’ll fill in the blanks.  And we expect them to ignore that wriggling worm on the sidewalk because we are in a hurry. 

Too often we project our understanding, our perspectives, and our priorities on to the children we love and teach.   Developmentally, children are supposed to be ego-centric.  What’s our excuse as adults?

Monitor your expectations and the words you use with young children and beware of trying to put big heads on little shoulders.  Slow down now and then and see things from their view.  (You were there once, remember?)  Keep expectations appropriate to their abilities, and instructions clear for their understanding. 

Be patient when kids act like….well, kids.

Top photo by Wynand Delport.

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11 responses to “Little Shoulders

  1. Great post! It’s a good reminder of something we all so easily forget! 🙂

  2. I SO needed this! My 2 1/2 year old is (as most toddlers are) blissfully unaware of time; I need to be more like her!! Love this post – linking it up!

  3. Kathy

    Thank you for the gentle reminder. I forgot yesterday!

  4. Beth

    Beautiful and to the point. Brought tears to me eyes and gave me goosebumps because it is so true! Where would we be without Grandma’s wisdom – and what wisdom we will be passing down to our grandchildren? Thanks for helping us stay on the right path and keep seeing the truth about children!

  5. Such a nice post. I love your grandma’s phrases! I think about this a lot. When you have more than one kid, it can be hard to treat them each in ways that match their ages, especially when you are trying to achieve something at home.

    I tend to be in the camp of wanting my kids to grow up slowly, so when they were young I always took notice when other parents were not in this camp. Some had good reasons for coaching their kids to achieve certain skills, for instance working parents often need kids to learn various self-care skills earlier. That made sense. But sometimes parents seemed to relish in the idea that if their kid could ski at age 3 or 4, even if it was accompanied by constant tears. I could be wrong about this because we didn’t go this route, but it was as if their kid’s athletic ability made them look good. Or parents who took their 4 and 5 year-olds to see a Harry Potter movie and were proud of them for not being scared. Something to think about…

  6. Trisha

    This is something I struggle with. I can think of many times that I say “you are acting like a …” when I suddenly realize they are a two year old. How else should they act?! Good reminder. Thanks Mandy.

  7. notjustcute

    This one was as much a reminder to myself as to anyone else! I think we all need it! :0)

  8. Jennifer

    Thank you so much for this reminder! I am constantly expecting my two year old to behave in a more grown up way. I know that I should really slow down to her pace. When I do our days are so much more peaceful and happy!

  9. Pingback: Weekend Reads. | Love Bugs and Legal Pads

  10. I love that statement. I may need to incorporate that into my reminders for the other teachers I work with. (With credit to you and your grandmother!)

  11. One of the nicest posts I have read. Good old grandma for reminding me such things to treat children. This way I’d be on my right path again!

    Thank you very much.



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