Littles and Bigs / Myth #1
Behavior of school aged Littles (Mediums Pre-K through Grade 5) has changed over the past three decades. This myth gets its substance because of the shifting descriptors of behavior from common sense “kids will be kids” to various clinical descriptions. Clinically, many kids are depressed, anxious, oppositional and defiant, attention and focus challenged, hyperactive, socially and emotionally maladjusted. Increasingly, behavior of the Littles has been categorized to fit specific labels and to generate medical and mental health therapies which generates access to drug therapies from Big Pharm. Does this mean that the actual behavior of Littles has changed during the past 30 years? Context, yes. Behavior? No. The way in which Bigs manage and handle behavior has changed. During the crucial toddler stage when Littles are fighting for independence with barely any regard to their physical and mental safety, many adults have no idea how to say “no” and stick by it. Kids are enabled and overprotected from any misstep. Immediate correction and consequence are not delivered. Rather, Bigs have a sense that giving their Littles a “safe space” to practice behavior is the modifier which will change behavior. So when, for example, Littles rebel from eating the food that is prepared or suffer resistance to any house rule that is imposed such as structured nighty-night in regards to time and sleeping in their own bed, the rebellion is too much for Bigs. The Littles eat what and when they want (I call it grazing) and extend their awake time into the hours when Bigs must have their “big time”. When the center of the household shifts from common sense structure imposed by the Bigs to complying to the whims of the Littles just to have some peace, opposite chaos ensues. In this age of Littles of the Gen X-ers and Millenials, you can find many of them in food therapy, play therapy, constructed recreation groups of every sort, special after school tutoring (usually to handle homework demands that are beyond the scope of normal evening households), and usually with hijacked Screens in their hands leading to excessive media supervision instead of Bigs guidance. And this is all to assuage their demands and leads the Bigs to abdicate control to a plethora of available therapies to correct the behaviors that have trampled on the peace and community of the household.
Here is my myth buster and it is lovingly and calmly directed to any Big that recognizes any part of their household, school, or public setting in the above paragraph. Get a fucking grip and get it quickly. And do not be a nouveau philosophical punk bitch about it. Medium Littles at this age are past testing the water and are gleefully swimming in their own lanes. So stop with all the malarkey that lets you off the hook so you can turn it over to the professionals or to prescription drug therapy. They are not pedigree pets. They are kids. This must have been the point in time when the moniker “tough love” was first used. Let them play, get dirty, cry, fight, cuddle, imagine and wonder, fall down, get up, try again, master skills, be kind, be mean, say yes, say no. All under the love and tutelage of all adults that set their boundaries. The Medium Littles do not know best. That is a myth. They do know what feels good, tastes good, sounds good, looks good, and smells good. And they can be vocal about it. Bigs are there to give them a full range of experiences so they develop as individuals and can make increasingly good choices based on the values of home and school. It does not mean that all meals consist of snack foods, fast food, and sweets. They eat what is prepared for them and they learn to dine with other people. They play at what we allow them to play at. They learn as we structure their lessons towards mastery. They sleep when we tell them. They sleep where we tell them to rest their little heads. They follow the schedule that is set for them by the adults. Let me give you a Baroness scenario. Here is some good myth buster food therapy so you do not have to take them to a therapist and spend your allotted grocery resource from the budget.
“Time to sit down together and eat. Hmm, what did (whomever prepared the scrumptious meal) fix for dinner? Looks delish. What? You don’t want it! Well, let me put some on your plate because just enough was fixed for all of us. Sit there with your plate until meal time is finished. You might decide to try some.” (Meal begins.) “Soooo, what did everybody do today? Any good stories?” (conversation and food is eaten.) “Everyone finished?” (And not a morsel is touched on Gourmet Little’s plate.) “Let’s clean up and get to family fun time. Clear your dishes, please.” (And then as you scrape the meal off Little’s plate…) “Go to your room. I’ll be in for a few minutes when its’ time for nighty night.” Forget the special meal of Doritos and a quartered, no crust PBJ. We can trust the adults that prepare or buy the meal to consider any allergies, various preferences, and respective tastes buds of the family. The family eats what is prepared at meal times, preferably together as a community. “Oh, you are screaming for the TV to be on in your room? No TV in the bedroom. I’ll be in there in a while to read a story. We are watching a show out here.” And then when you do go in there, don’t linger. Pajamas on, nighty night routine kept to minimum on this night. Yes, it is OK to have a light on. Most Littles have a monster or two (of their own invention or from shows they watch) under the bed or in the closet. Light is representative of love and shine. When Littles feel safe in the dusky dark of a bedroom, the night light will not be necessary. And now (get ready for it) is when they look beseechingly in your eyes and say something like, “I’m really hungry. Can I have a snack first?” SAY THIS: “You probably are hungry because you did not eat your dinner. You are going to REALLY love your breakfast!”
Bam! They are not going to starve. It is one meal and they probably had an after school or afternoon snack at some point. Keep the focus on the culture of mealtime in your house and the love and experience that it generates, not their strategic demands to get what they want.
Tony Robbins says, “We all get what we tolerate.” When toddlers demand, it is very easy sometimes to give in to the demand, avoid conflict, and maintain good buddy status with a Little. In return, expect dysfunctional behavior and chaos during routines that demand manners, respect, and compliance from the Medium Littles. You have demonstrated that you tolerate and accept it.
Let’s face it…What is popular is not always right. What is right is not always popular.