Catholic Activity: Understanding Your Child
Seek to understand why your child has certain tendencies or failures, and then treat them accordingly. Teach them to identify and work on overcoming bad habits or failings.
A second need of your child is to be understood in terms of his own native talents and capabilities. God makes each one of us different; our nervous systems may run from extremes of restlessness to extremes of placidity. One child may be born with a physique that demands constant physical exertion. Another may prefer to spend hours in one spot, if not in one position. One child may have a native curiosity which may some day make him an outstanding scientist; another may be bookish; a third given to play-acting. As was noted earlier, you should first accept your child for what he is. Then you should try to understand his particular needs which result from the fact that he is who he is. This is of great importance if he is to have a wholesome environment in which he can develop his fullest potentials.
Modern experts make much of the necessity of understanding your youngster. They are correct in this attitude. If two-year-old Eddie constantly demands attention after the birth of a younger child, it is helpful to parents to realize that his conduct is probably caused by his fear that his parents are giving to the newcomer the love which he wants for himself. If your eight-year-old constantly picks on younger boys and is acquiring a reputation as a bully, it helps you if you realize that he probably feels frustrated in some important area of his life and is venting his frustration upon those who cannot fight back. If your thirteen-year-old daughter defies your wishes and applies rouge and lipstick when out of your sight, it may aid you if you understand that she is expressing her wish for greater freedom, and perhaps feels that you regard her too much as a little girl.
All too often, however, parents who understand why a child does a certain thing also feel that they must accept the action. This is a complete mistake — the kind of error that soft-hearted social workers make, especially in dealing with juvenile delinquents. You should understand why your child acts as he does so that you may be able to satisfy those emotional needs which he is seeking to satisfy by his improper conduct. If his actions reflect his sense of insecurity, find ways to give him a feeling of being loved and wanted. If his actions indicate his struggle for independence, provide outlets that enable him to express his own individuality without harming others. If his conduct indicates a belief that he is treated less fairly than your other children, devise ways to prove that he shares equally in your love.
But because you can explain why Johnny acts that way does not mean that his objectionable conduct itself should be tolerated. There is probably a reason why every sinner in history has performed his shameful act. But that does not make the act justifiable. The man who kills in a fit of passion may have been goaded into it; yet society rightfully demands that he pay a penalty. The bank robber may have been frustrated as a child; but if his lawyer advanced such an excuse before a judge, he would probably be laughed out of court. Therefore, when you seek to understand your child, do so not to excuse him but to gain knowledge that will help you direct him along the course of proper action.
Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959