Misbehavior files series. Case 1.
Hypothesis: parental over control may inhibit a young child´s hability to accept firm calm limits and learn new social skills. When the over control is turned into trust children may gain a sense of self-control.
Martin, 2 years and 7 months is a sensitive, creative, intelligent and very communicative child. After a few months coming to the play group he got irascible. Even when his emotions were validated and he was offered a respectful and firm limit, he was very upset most of the play time and he tended to insult verbally, to hit and pull from the hair. In the last month his father, Gabriel, decided to come himself (instead of the mother) to be with him during the play group and he constantly looked at his child as if his eyes were an effective way to have Martin´s behavior “under control”.
Martin has been able to “behave” ever since. But eventually his inner impulsive urges would manifest. Being very conscious he was “doing the wrong thing”, he would immediately turn round and look for his father´s eyes with a worried, tense face.
I felt quite uncomfortable about this. I wondered…
Was his father´s presence a positive support for Martin? Doing so, would his father help him know that he loves him, that he will accompany him while growing, showing him the correct path to go? Would Martin “internalize” his father and find him to be his inner guide while growing up?
Or was he overexposed and misunderstood, considered as rude and bad-mannered and admonished for what he said and did, when what he actually needed was a basic trust on who he is and what he is struggling with?
And in the end, who was I to judge? Should I try to help? Or should I just accept, honor and respect?…
I talked to the father two weeks ago. I told him what I observed about Martin. I suggested him to trust his child and let go, avoiding to set unnecessary pressure on him.
Last week the father took a sit with the other parents and chit chatted with them while Martin played. With his father out of sight, he quickly picked up his lost time: he pulled a friend´s hair; he pushed, hit and grabbed toys from other children. He was being himself and continued his social skills development from where he had left it.
Misbehavior was back. But there was a difference. In the room his father had really changed his message: he was supporting and trusting him. Now, when firm and calm limits are set Martin is able to accept them and move forward into play. True Martin is back and I cherish that.