When children are coming to terms with being separate entities from their parents, it can trigger some challenging behaviour.
I have a friend with a two year old who has suddenly started acting up; biting and kicking at his nursery and refusing to go to bed, when previously there had been no problem in this area. It’s no accident, I think, that these behavioural problems started when my friend took a part-time job, which means that three days a week she is out of the house. She makes sure she is home for bedtime, but it’s still a level of absence that her child is unused to.
Children - especially the younger ones - truly believe that the world revolves around them. It’s not a fault, it’s just how it is, but this means that they can think that bad things, or things that they don’t like, happen because of them. In addition, they have an acute sensitivity to separation and can experience high levels of anxiety about what is happening somewhere where they aren’t.
So, my friend’s little boy is coping with a complex set of emotions. He is realising that he is an individual; he is having to cope with his mother being away from him more than he would choose; he is, perhaps, blaming himself for the fact that she isn’t there and feeling stressed because he doesn’t know what’s going on with her while she's gone.
It’s a lot for a two year old to take in, and without the maturity to process and explain these feelings, he’s doing what kids do; offering up behaviours that show his feelings and instinctively acting out.
My friend is now taking time to explain the true nature of the situation. Even though her son is very young, if she does this often and repeatedly, he will begin to take in the information and hopefully start to calm down. In the same way, he is hearing over and over again that it’s okay to be angry or frustrated, but it’s not okay to bite and kick people. She is also asking him why he is behaving this way. He may not be able to answer her, but it prompts his thought processes and shows him that she acknowledges that something is wrong and cares about his feelings.
She is unable to take him to work, but she has made a map to show him where exactly she is, and this seems to assuage his anxiety somewhat.
So, the next time you have that burning, boiling sensation of FOMO, just be grateful that you are an adult who can rationally cope with it, rather than a toddler who is trying to deal with purely the raw emotion and distress.
Last year I read an interview with the female footballer Eni Aluko. Her perspective of finding her way in a male dominated field was both inspiring and depressing.
At the age of 15 she joined Birmingham City Ladies and was labelled the “Wayne Rooney of women’s football”. When she was called up to the England youth squad however she found that when she fully displayed her skills in a way that might have been construed as showy, rather than the praise she was was expected, she was told to rein in her flamboyance. Where male players might have been lauded for their individual skill, she was encouraged to concentrate on enabling fellow team members rather than to experiment with her personal ability. Consequently she concentrated on just receiving the ball and passing it on, rather than following her instincts and developing her flair.
This kind of gender bias is surprisingly embedded in our society. When working in schools, I witness centuries of ingrained habit in subtly giving more leeway to boys and have also found myself falling foul of its all pervading power, try though I do to fight it.
It’s not a question of blame, and I don’t want to sound as if I am prejudiced against encouraging boys to become the very best they can be - I am absolutely not. However, we are only just at the beginning of the journey that sees our girls being given truly equal opportunity and reward for their efforts.
If we are to see genuine change it is up to all of us to be as vigilant as we can be, in our behaviour and our language until it becomes normal to say that the next up and coming footballing boy is the “Eni Aluko of men’s football”.
In 2019 The Guardian printed a piece by the winner of their Young Sportswriter of the Year (ages seven to nine) award; one Caleb Waterhouse, aged eight.
It’s a piece about the snowboarder Katie Ormerod and how inspirational she is. It’s coherent, informative and charmingly rendered in the vernacular of youth whilst still being eminently readable. The link is at the end of this blogpost.
Have you ever had the thought cross your mind, “I wonder when it’s all going to go back to normal?” I found these very words floating through my consciousness unbidden the other day. Given the current state of affairs, I think it’s an excusable fantasy.
Because it is a fantasy, there never was any ‘normal’ for things to go back to, even if time reversal was a thing. (Time reversal is not a thing!)