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The Early Years: ‘If they can’t get a kiss, they will take a kick’

From Deb Archer

You have a project that is due at work and you’re putting in some extra time in on the computer. Your child has asked you to read her a book several times and each time you have brushed her off by telling her you will read when you are finished. You are getting annoyed at the constant interruptions. Pretty soon you hear books hitting the floor as your child starts throwing them from the shelf. Why can’t your child just be patient?

For humans the need for interaction and attention begins at birth and lasts until death. It is easy to give infants attention and affection. They cry and we change, feed or comfort them. As a child grows, that need for affection and attention doesn’t disappear. Often as parents or caregivers it’s easy to forget that toddlers or preschooler still need and long for our attention; a child will do many things to get this attention. They may ask us to read a book or play with them or they may do something they know is wrong just to get us to pay attention. Lives are busy and it’s so easy to tell our little ones we will read or play later. But, because the need for attention is so powerful, children who cannot get needed attention by asking, will progress toward negative behaviors in their efforts to fulfill this need. There is an old saying: “If a child cannot get a kiss they will take a kick.” The “kick” is symbolic of negative attention. If our kids are constantly finding trouble, we may want to consider that we are not giving the attention they need.

At ECFE when we talked about this topic, the parents all agreed that the days they had a big agenda to complete were the days that they found themselves getting upset with their children more often. At times like this a simple strategy might be helpful. Be proactive and find opportunities for 10 to 15 minute breaks from your tasks to read a story or color with your child. Or perhaps sit and play with your child and his or her toys. Don’t wait until he or she hits a sibling or makes the baby cry before you find time to give the needed attention.

Always remember that if supper isn’t ready exactly on time, the house is not perfect, the laundry sits in the basket an extra 10-20 minutes, who cares? The mood of your home will be much more pleasant if you stop and spend some time with your child. In 20 years from now, you are not going to remember wrinkly clothes, or late dinner, or a less- than- perfect house. You will cherish the times with your kids. We all love our kids so much, let’s take time to show them love and give them the “kiss” they deserve and not the “kick.”

Deb Archer is a licensed teacher and parent educator. She is the owner of Kickstart Preschool in Two Harbors.