“C’mon kid, behave as your mom says or she will be angry!” blurted my husband.
I was pretty annoyed, obviously. Not because he commented on my anger. I was annoyed because I do not want to make my kid behave because of my anger. As a mother, I do not want to raise a kid who thinks that pleasing mom or any other person in the world is a sure trick to survive. I had read somewhere that people-pleasing attitude crops from parent-pleasing behaviour. When kids think that they can maintain the sanity of the family members by behaving as they please, they can certainly attract people at large in the same manner. Let’s learn what people-pleasing attitude is and how to avoid our kids becoming people pleasers.
“Never seek to please anyone. Seek to evolve thyself.” – Lailah Gifty Akita
We as parents want our kids to bloom like flowers, to identify their strengths and make their dreams happen. In a bid to please others, our kids are losing their unique identities and creativity.
What is People Pleasing Behavior?
Imagine this – your kid is reciting all the poems that he remembers while you are busy cooking. However, when you clap for a poem that you like, he infers that mom will pay attention only when a certain poem is recited. So, next time, when you are busy, he starts singing your favourite poem to attract your attention. While this is common, it is quite difficult to change this basic human conduct. We listen to those radio channels that play our favourite music, visit those eateries where waiter understands our tastes, talk to those friends who agree with our viewpoint and so on and so forth. Kids are little humans – they seek attention just like us, in fact, more than us at times. In short, all this is people-pleasing – the radio channel, waiter at the eatery, friends agreeing to us and kids who behave as we desire.
How Does People Pleasing Behavior Arise?
When we talk about kids, they love to be in an environment where people listen to them, all the time. Even kids who talk less want to be heard – we talk because someone is listening to us – we do not want to talk to the walls. While most of the times, we talk sense, kids on the other hand talk in their creative language. They imagine things and they want to communicate this to us. If they find something funny for the first time – they want to share their happiness with us. And if we are not available to them in this situation, they try to seek our attention by behaving in a way that pleases us.
Why Are Parents Not Available to Their Kids?
While some parents are not available to their kids unknowingly, there are some who do not want to. When I am busy doing the laundry, my toddler often calls for me. At times, I ignore her as I think she is just calling for the sake of it. However, when I do attend her, she hugs me and says that she was missing me. I realize my mistake.
Parents, like me, are not able to judge the signs and feelings of their kids, at times. There are many parents who are already burdened with their chores that it becomes difficult for them to understand the requirements of their kids. Then there is a section of parents who are not able to relate to their kids for one or the other reason. Such parenting may result in people-pleasing behaviour. Parents who are preoccupied with their own life give way to the people-pleasing attitude in their children. When their parents are not available to them, they try to please aunts and uncles that they meet. When such people or even strangers affirm to the kids’ behaviour, the kids feel belongingness. They try to please other people in the same manner, next time when they meet them. And such recurrent behaviour becomes a norm rather than an exception.
How Anger Gives Rise to People Pleasing Attitude?
Have you behaved in a particular way so that something that you do not like can be avoided? Many times, right! With kids, it is the same. While we do not want to be late for movies to avoid missing the beginning, kids avoid being their real self to escape a spoiled environment in their home. While this may sound weird to you, it is very true. Kids are angels – they do not like hatred or anger in any form. The moment I tell my toddler that I will not talk to you, she is upset. She is continually checking with me for another hour or so whether I am still angry with her. Children do not prefer living in an environment with negative vibes of anger, hate or constant cribbing. They are little saints who desire their share of peace in their own way.
Many households are rife with easy anger. Members here are like volcanoes that can erupt at any point in time. When kids realize this, they want to do everything that can avoid such eruption. They try to behave in a manner that pleases their parents. If you force your kid to eat and be angry if he does not, he will stuff his belly on your insistence. However, his decision-making ability goes for a toss. Next time, he doesn’t know whether he likes a certain food or whether he is hungry. He eats just to avoid you being angry. Henceforth, their decisions are based on the possible responses and reactions of their parents.
What is the Innate Behavior of a Child?
Innate behaviour is one that comes instinctively and is not learned over a period of time. Behaviour that is dependent on the pleasure of other people is not genuine. Children should not bid to become people pleasers. Have you come across a kid who is the favourite of the teachers in school? You must have. In fact, I had tried to find out why some teachers like that kid in spite of the reason that he is not so bright. While I was not aware of psychology at that time, I certainly do now. The kid used to behave as teachers wanted him too – he was the quintessential ‘good boy’ that every ma’am desires in her class.
Kids should be refrained from becoming people pleasers. Instead, they should be trained to follow their heart. They should be groomed to disagree with other people and take the route less often travelled. Many kids are not good decision-makers. One of the reasons for this is their parents’ attitude. Some parents do not allow their kids to make decisions – whether they want to play, eat, roam around or even shit. They have to do what their parents want them to do.
Instead of this, ask frequent questions to your kids and make them learn the skill of decision making. “What colour do you want to wear today?” or “Are you hungry – what do you want to eat today?” I know that these are tricky questions. They would want to wear their favourite party dress and eat some junk food, most of the times. However, you need to make them aware why a party dress cannot be worn to the play and why a certain food is not healthy every time. Children are quite creative. Listen to their creative and interesting answers and groom their ability to think.
Cultivate the Skills of Decision Making
Instead of deciding based on the likes and desires of other people, kids should be taught to make decisions based on the experiences and learning. While this cannot be inculcated suddenly, this comes gradually with conscious parenting. Balance your parenting with authority and love. Remember you had made some promises to your unborn child. You might have, certainly. Read more about parenting and how can you bring about a positive change in your kid. Be available for your kids at the right time. However, do not forget to make them independent too.
Choose the Right Words
Take your kids as mass media – you need to be politically correct in front of the kids or they will hook on to the wrong words that you chose. While it is okay to praise them for something good that they did, do not use the same praiseworthy words for the average things they do. Kids being kids will not be able to make out the difference between the two. Although you want to make your children feel confident about themselves yet you do not want to make them people pleasers.
At times, when I am busy reading newspapers, my kid tries to draw my attention by doing something. She says, “Look mom! I drew an elephant’. Without even lifting my nose dipped into the paper, I say, “Excellent, girl!” She may or may not notice that you have not seen. For her, the round that she drew becomes a real elephant. And if someone corrects her in the future, she might feel bad for it. Even the kids know that they are not the best every time. Hence, you need to try to be on the same page as theirs.
Not Everyone will Praise your Kids
While you praise your kids for minutest of achievements, not everyone will do that. Just as mentioned in the subject above, you need to choose the right words. The thing is that not everyone will be good to your children in this world. You need to groom your children to accept failures and move on. They should know how to accept criticism. You need to help your kids to understand that the confidence they gained should be a measuring factor for success rather than appreciation by others.
Avoid Convenience Parenting
Gradually, many parents have started resorting to convenience parenting. Such parents do not think long term repercussions or benefits of their actions. Their behaviour is to feel good for the time being. If I am angry about something wrong that my kid did, he would express in the same manner. Hence, parents should have some plan for parenting – it should be a long-term one. While you can please your kids by making them watch YouTube while you work, you cannot make them happy for a long term. Develop a plan that cultivates good habits in them so that they behave well without you telling them.
When I asked my daughter to hand me over some veggies, she denied. I told her that this is a help that I need. After a few minutes, she came running to the kitchen and helped me. I did not force her to do the task – she did it on her own. I was not angry or ordered her. This worked. However, whenever I have forced her to do something, she has never followed my orders. You need to take out some extra time for this. Take proactive steps to make yours a responsible kid. If you have ever read Calvin and Hobbes, you would realize how some parents make their kids do things to develop character and habits that will make them a good human being.
Ask Right Questions to Your Kid
Whether it is important or not your kid needs to be heard when they have something to say. However, you also need to make them talk. Whether or not you are with them, ask them how their day was, what important thing they did, what was that that they did not like, etc. This will make them feel desired and even you will be able to understand their psyche. However, with teenagers, you need to ask questions in a manner that it does not sound to be intrusive.
Do Not Be People-Pleasers Yourself
Children learn from our behaviour. Most of the traits they exhibit are from their parents or the people around them. Hence, it is required that we behave in a certain manner. If we as parents are people pleasers, our kids will turn out to be same. While we should be polite and gentle, we should also be able to stand up for ourselves. Instead of resorting to herd mentality, we should take the right stand in situations and events that require us to. When faced with a problem, let your child learn from you that it is not okay to accept the wrong. If you just crib and complain all the time without taking any action, your child gets the wrong signals. Stand up and speak up for yourself, at least for your kids.
All in All
I am sure that you are a good parent and doing quite well. Just some tweaks here and there will ensure that your kids blossom into lovely flowers. Like this, even you need to assure yourself that parenting is not rocket science – it comes from the gut. Follow your heart and do what seems right to you. And in the end, I just want to say that teach your kids that “Not everyone is not going to like you and that’s okay! Right.” Healthy Parenting to you!