Parents can easily become frustrated when it seems that children are not learning the lessons we try to teach them. This post uses two analogies – the analogy of language and the analogy of planting a tree – to explain why a child’s slow learning process is normal and how patience can be used to change bad behavior.
The Challenge, Reward, and Frustration of Parenting
Parenting is one of the most challenging and rewarding human activities. When our children are young, we do everything we can to provide a good life for them and to help them grow into good, well-rounded people. Sometimes helping children grow can be an infuriating process, and most parents are familiar with the discouragement that can come from thinking that your child isn’t listening to your instructions.
Why Won’t They Learn?
It often seems that we tell our kids the same things over and over, and over again, with few results. When children grow out of the “terrible twos” toddler phase, they must learn the important behavioral lesson that crying and throwing a fit will no longer get them what they want. At a certain age, children are able to understand this and willing to try other methods of getting along with those around them. It can be infuriating when they keep throwing tantrums anyway.
Exasperated parents trying to help their children through transitional phases should take care not to become discouraged. It is perfectly normal for children to require a little repetition before a behavioral lesson will really sink in. Two analogies can help parents understand the importance of patience in raising children.
Raising a Child is Like Learning a Language
The first analogy is the analogy of language. When you learn a foreign language, patience and repetition are two of the most important parts of the learning process. No one expects to master a language after one, two, or three lessons. It takes years and years of practice before you can speak the new language fluently. Even in the case of one simple word, it is unlikely that you will have the word memorized after hearing it only once. You need to repeat the word again and again, hear it spoken in natural conversations, and really assimilate it into your vocabulary through practice. Only then will you have really learned the word.
Raising a Child is Like Planting a Tree
The second analogy for exhausted parents is the analogy of a tree. A child can be likened to a tree that is grown from a seed. When a seed is planted, it needs to be nurtured constantly until it is established as a sapling. In the same way, babies need constant nurturing in order to grow into children. Once a tree is established, however, it still needs to be watered day after day. If you do not water the tree every single day, again and again, it probably will not survive. Similarly, young children are able to understand a great deal and are becoming established as individuals, but they still need to be “watered” every day. They need to hear parents’ lessons again and again in order to thrive and develop healthy, appropriate behaviors.
Time and Practice
These two analogies can help parents see that there is no reason to get upset or discouraged if children do not learn their lessons right away. Learning and growth takes time and practice. A child may be capable of understanding, why throwing a temper tantrum is not in her best interest, but she will need to hear the explanation repeated many times before it will really sink in.
Keep Calm, Carry On
It can be difficult for parents to use forgiveness and understanding with children who make mistakes or repeat problematic behaviors. This struggle is totally normal, and even the best parents in the world have this experience. Just as children can learn with practice and repetition to behave appropriately, parents can learn with practice not to become upset when their kids act up or behave badly. Parents who have a little understanding and patience, and who calmly repeat the lessons their children needs to learn, will find their effort, care, and devotion rewarded as their children develop.