“They were angels,” say the Grandparents.
“She’s always so well behaved,” says the Kindy Teacher.
“He’s a great at sitting still and paying attention,” says the School Teacher.
“He always gives it his best effort,” says the Coach.
They are looking at me, talking to me, but I’m really not sure they are talking about my children.
Because as home THEY are definitely not angels, SHE is rarely well behaved, HE never sits still or pays attention and the other HE gives up far too easily when things get tough.
But maybe that’s just at home?
Parents have long lamented that children are on their best behaviour for everyone else and are little ratbags at home.
The theory goes that home is the “safe place” for your kids to drop their bundles. They feel comfortable enough to let out all the ugly feelings and push all the boundaries.
Which explains why my highly active, sensory-seeking 8 year old comes home from sitting still at school all day and climbs the walls. Literally. And why my people-pleasing 10 year old comes home from being the model student and unleashes all his pent up preteen attitude on the entire household. And why my three year old is… a three year old.
The fact that home is their safe place to do this makes so much sense. It’s exactly the same as an adult coming home from a hard day at the office and taking their bad mood out on their spouse.
So does that mean that as parents we should cop our children’s bad behaviour at home? This is the point I struggle with. I want my kids to learn how to communicate their feelings, not to find unhealthy outlets or to take out their frustrations on the people they love. But I also get we all have bad days.
I think the best solution is to try to understand what your child needs when they are acting out at home and teach them how to identify and meet those needs.
When my 8 year old is tearing around the house, I send him out to the trampoline to burn off that energy and meet those sensory needs. When my 10 year old is thundering around like a storm cloud, I send him to his room to listen to some music alone and calm his mind.
When my 3 year old is being a 3 year old… well I haven’t quite come up with an adequate outlet for her yet. For the time being I will just weather the storm and hope for the best!
I definitely don’t have all the answers and my tactics don’t work all the time. But helping children learn what they need to do to unwind and de-stress in a healthy way is such an important life skill. And home should be their safe place, their sounding board and their training ground for life.
As parents it is our role to love our children at their worst, while encouraging them to find their best.