I think I’ve mentioned this a time or two, or maybe in every post, but I have three kids all little dudes and they have a lot of similarities but are very different. I love them fiercely and part of that is encouraging them to follow their passions, build on the skills they have, and understand their own needs and tendencies and how they drive their behaviors.
Our oldest has a mathematical brain. Now let’s be clear, he doesn’t want to do math, that would be torture. He wants to build forts with functioning garages and toss a hat at the exact right angle to land perfectly on his brother’s head. He wants to learn the best speed to hit a jump so you ‘get air’ without going ‘endo’. My middle man is very relational. He is the life of the party and the center of attention in a crowd. He wants to be your best friend and make sure that everyone knows he cares about them. (Until you cross the line, then you are dead to him. He will, with concerning amounts of specificity, wish death upon you.) He will hold your hand, articulate that he needs more one on one time with a person, and ask to do basic things like run errands or do chores so he can do it with you. My littlest dude is incredibly independent. There is no reason he should have any help or handicaps to do things that his older brothers can do. Yes he is in the toddler ‘I do it myself’ phase but it’s more than just frustration with people taking things away to help him. He will spend exorbitant amounts of time working and playing on his own without asking for help or for anyone to play with him. He is perfectly content playing with his brothers and friends and if they don’t want to, no problem, just more toys for him.
So why am I bothering to tell you that? I mean I’m sure you find it mildly amusing that my kids are all different and the baby is the most independent which is not the norm but so what? The reason I bring it up is that I wonder how often we do this with our kids. We spend a ton of time thinking about and telling our kids to excel in a sport, get an education, learn domestic skills that will serve them later in life, spend time outside, and the list goes on and on. How often do we stop thinking about what they need to be best equipped in this world and start thinking about how to foster those natural tendencies. For example, maybe your kid picks an iPad over a book because they’re more like my oldest and want to watch videos on how a ball can bounce 7 times before hitting the target dead on rather than read a story about a kid befriending a creature. Perhaps your kid joined baseball and begs to go to every tournament and clinic because they need the comradery that comes with a team. Maybe your kid retreats once they start to win because they can see you gave them an advantage that they didn’t want to have. When you understand the why you’re better able to have empathy for the cause which in turn allows you to create the best solutions to the problem at hand. For example, he needs to stimulate his mathematician side and uses YouTube to do it creating excessive screen time. Rather than just taking the screen away I can encourage him to do his own ball bounce thingy.
Finally, when was the last time you analyzed this for yourself? You already know you need to work hard, fuel your body well with food, water, and rest, get active, build relationships. Our list goes on and on too. So why are you working too many hours, eating too much junk, spending so much time on social media, or distancing yourself from your partner? When was the last time you stopped checking the boxes to equip yourself, giving yourself space to think about your own needs and tendencies? Understanding the why will allow you to solution better for yourself too. It isn’t any more complex for us because we’re adults, we’re just in it and it’s harder to see what is surrounding you. Perhaps you’re someone who thrives off of order and predictability (most of us are). You don’t feel like you have enough of it in one area so you hold as tightly as you can to another. For example, I need to feel like I can control something so I guess it will be hours logged on to work. Once you understand that it is a need for control in one part of your day you can refocus it in another area. For example, I need to feel in control and am working excessive hours to feel that. Rather than just saying ‘log off’, I can create a schedule that focuses on allowing me to control my time in the evening even if it isn’t for work.
You could absolutely start paying more attention to what your kids passions are, how they are driving behaviors (both those you want them to have and those you don’t), and develop more compassion and empathy because of knowing the why. You could use that understanding and compassion to improve the behaviors too. I think, more importantly though, you could do it for yourself.