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.