On my Facebook page, I asked adults to share something that their child had been doing that was frustrating or upsetting to them.
I then invited people in the comments (myself included) to respond, from the perspective of the child…what the child might be thinking or learning or trying or not-trying and how it’s getting interpreted by the adult.
These are some of the reframes we came up with.
[ID: All the images show a teal background with one word bubble coming down from the top, and one word bubble coming up from the bottom. The top bubble is labeled, “The adult’s point of view.” The bottom bubble is labeled, “One possible child’s point of view.” Underneath each post is a transcription of the specific words on it.]
[ID: The first “adult” bubble says, “My child makes constant noise. It feels like it’s just to annoy me!” The first “child” bubble says, “I love to hear engaging things all day long. If there’s not anything around, I’m perfectly content to make that noise!”]
[ID: The second “adult” bubble says, “My 16 month old screams and cries hysterically when she doesn’t get her way.” The second “child” bubble says, “I just want things to be the way that I want them to be! Isn’t that what everybody in the whole world wants? I don’t know that I’ll get another chance to do what I want again eventually. I just want to control my own life! I just want normal human things — autonomy and choice and fun!”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “My son is so destructive. He likes to stab things – food, walls, boxes. He’s so rough on everything.” The “child” bubble says, “I NEED to take things apart! I need to run and jump and explore and play! I know instinctively that these things channel my energy and develop my strength and fine motor skills. If I had been born several hundred years ago, I would’ve been able to play outside all day long and burn off all this energy and hit things with sticks and… Even people getting upset about it doesn’t help me stop. It’s so hard to live in a world with so many expectations that I be still and quiet!”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “My child has one speed: GO. Running and jumping and flipping all over the house constantly. It’s loud and chaotic.” The “child” bubble says, “My body instinctively knows that the big muscles have to develop before the small muscles can. And there will someday be so many things in the world to write (with small muscles) and draw (with small muscles) and type and examine and sew and paint and bake and cook and measure and explore and… I know that the more time I get now to develop my control over my big muscles, the more I’ll be able to make my body do for me forever!”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “It’s so hard and so boring to slow down to child-speed. They want to dress themselves but it takes forever. I need to give 10 and 5 minute warnings for everything. It’s so much mental load.” The “child” bubble says, “I’m learning about time. I get so easily immersed in what I’m doing. You keeping time for me helps me learn awareness of it!”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “I try to redirect her kindly. She turns it into a pedantic argument. I say “stop poking your sister” and she says “I’m not poking, I’m tapping”…then she’ll stop but switch to, “I’m not tapping, I’m kicking.” It’s aggravating!” The “child” bubble says, “I feel so frustrated about how many things are out of my control. I’ve got such a clever grasp on the nuances of language by now, it makes it easier for me to feel like I can control this one thing. Language has massive amount of nuance, and it’s fun to get to play with these expectations. If they wanted to be more specific, they could be more specific, right?”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “He’s lying about what he ate, and he has type 1 diabetes! It scares me so much – I’m just trying to keep him alive.” The “child” bubble says, “My relationship with food feels complicated after everything I’ve been through. I’m trying so hard to keep my adults happy, that I’m telling them what I believe they want to hear instead of what’s actually true. This is so hard for me. I know it’s hard for my adults, too, but I just can’t help myself right now. I need them to be responsible where I can’t.”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “My 2.5 year old won’t use utensils to eat. They’ll only drink from one preferred kind of cup, and they won’t try any new foods. I’m worried.” The “child” bubble says, “I don’t know what this new food is. Safer to not try it and just keep an eye on it. Maybe if I see other people eat it and I see it 10-100 more times around in my general vicinity, I might get familiar with it over time. And it’s my job right now to become more discerning about what I eat, because I’m not just a baby who puts everything — food or not — in my mouth anymore.”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “Whenever I tell him to do something, his knee-jerk response is to be negative about it or to get frustrated with me. He can’t just do what he wants 100% of the time!” The “child” bubble says, “I wish they could see that I’m doing something & completely engaged in my own thoughts! It’s frustrating to be interrupted and told what to do when I don’t even care about doing that thing. At least I know I can safely express how I’m feeling about it.”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “My child lacks impulse control and it’s even worse in social settings. We talk about expectations, but it doesn’t help them “turn it off” when we need to.” The “child” bubble says, “There is too much going on for me to take it all in, all at once, and still remember all the things that are important to my adults. I can only think about the things that are important to me right now! I might be overwhelmed and need a place I can go to take a break.”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “She refuses to take responsibility. If I point out something that needs to be fixed, she says, “That’s not my fault,” or she even tries to blame ME!” The “child” bubble says, “It feels overwhelmingly shameful and embarrassing for someone to notice I made a mistake. I have to put up a defensive shell. Maybe that will protect me…or maybe it’ll start a fight…then I can at least fight against something, and being angry feels easier.”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “My 18 month old twins hit and bite each other constantly. But spending alone time with one just makes the other jealous and it’s even worse!” The “child” bubble says, “We’re too little to solve things any other way than the way that we are: physical, up close, in the moment, from our own point of view. If there’s a better way to solve problems, we’re too young to know it. Hopefully our adults can understand and physically keep us safe in the meantime. It takes time to learn how to share everything with another person.”]
[ID: The “adult” bubble says, “My 6 year old comes to me and whines that she’s bored and needs something to do. Then she refuses every game or play suggestion I make.” The “child” bubble says, “It scares me a little to feel bored. I can tell that nobody in the world likes feeling bored — they fill their time with electronics, everywhere I go. I’m uncomfortable with the space that boredom leaves! Maybe if I keep pestering my adults, they’ll find the One Right Perfect Thing… I’ve never found it yet, but surely it exists. I don’t know how to exercise the muscle to solve this problem yet. If I keep asking them, maybe they’ll just fix it and I won’t have to learn to solve it myself.”]
Remember that none of these mean that we shouldn’t intervene, or that we should just let our kids do whatever they want with no kind of help, support, or instruction. Understanding what’s in our kids’ heads can help us be more empathetic and compassionate. Understanding child development can help us understand what’s normal and what’s expected. But that doesn’t mean that that’s the only step we can ever take, or the only thing we ever have to do.