Why can’t my child just do what I ask?!

Ever found yourself saying “UGH! Why can’t my child do this?!”

It can be hard to understand what our kids can do and when, especially when they rise to the occasion, act with maturity and follow directions one day and not the next. How do we know when they are being defiant and when they truly cannot do what we expect?

Here are three tips for being able to tell the difference…

  1. Humans don’t really mature until our early 20’s!

Basically, the brain matures back-to-front, and the front (specifically, the prefrontal cortex) is the last area to mature. So what? Well, the prefrontal cortex is the brain’s headquarters for controlling impulses and emotions. So in many ways, our children will not be fully wired to manage either of those well for a long time! That doesn’t mean they are off the hook; we can still explain and hold them to age-appropriate expectations but we need to be understanding and flexible around the expectations we have.

  1. Expect consistent inconsistency.

Children will be inconsistent in their ability to follow directions and be well-behaved because their growth and maturity will come in spurts. And as we all know, our kids are less likely to do what we want when they are hungry or tired. So be especially flexible if they have had a long, demanding day; they may not show their best selves under less-than-ideal conditions.

  1. How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Our children learn best when we model the behavior we expect from them and help them practice this behavior before they are asked to do something independently. When you see your child acting with maturity and managing himself well, tell him what you notice and thank him for doing a good job. Kids like positive feedback and can use it to guide future behavior.

A great checklist for age-appropriate expectations can be found here:

Ask Heather

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