Act Your Age.

     Act your age. Parents say it all the time. What does it mean? Can we say something that is more helpful or descriptive?
When most parents say “act your age” they imply that the child is or will be misbehaving. There is no standard of what a child at a certain age should “act” like. These are opinions of parents based on observations of other children. These observations have been made on hundreds possibly thousands of children. When you average out any behavior you will find a norm, but it is unfair to impose that norm on every child. If you take any one child out of those hundreds of observed children you will see that they have behaviors that are below standard for that group.
Every single child is different in every single way. It is unreasonable to expect a child to act like the model we have in our heads of the “normal” child. As we all know there is no “normal”.
It is appropriate to expect children to act their best at all times. However, in some situations, children have more difficult time than others. If your child is struggling with negative behaviors remind them of a time when they were able to maintain the appropriate behavior for that particular situation. Be cautious about applying past behaviors to every situation. It won’t always apply. For example, the child was able to not run in the house but when taken to the amusement park they have a difficult time walking and staying with the adult.
When privately (please in private, the child has feelings too) reminding the child to behave more appropriately try describing the desired behavior. In the example above, saying “I really want you to have fun today and be safe. Can we walk like we did at the zoo?” would provide better results than simply asking them to act their age. They will not know what you mean as that behavior is a standard you hold that you may or may not have shared with them. If you have shared that desired behavior with them state that expectation so it is out there and the child is not wondering what behavior they should be exhibiting in that situation.
 As adults, we often don’t act our age. I am thankful for that at times. It is healthy to change our behaviors and try new ones. The difference in us doing it and the child doing it is that we have the experience and know which behaviors work. It is our responsibility to pass that knowledge along to children.

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