Just as handwriting gives a first psychological insight about a person, and is used by many companies in the recruitment phase, even our children's drawings and scribbles can tell many things about them.. Do you know what to look at when your children show you their works? Here are some key points to consider when you interpret children's drawings!
Why interpreting children's drawings
When we announced to the children that we would come back to France, and explained the consequences this would have for them, my daughter started drawing houses.
They were beautiful, cheerful drawings; but it struck me that the subject's choice had suddenly become "monotonous and repetitive" - while before she would mostly draw people, whether it was us or the princesses she liked so much.
Have you ever noticed any weird detail in your children's drawings, and wondered what they meant?
For example, take the drawing below : isn't it .. Say peculiar ?
I wanted to investigate.. And I asked an elementary school teacher to give me some clarification.
Mothers light up when they have to talk about their offspring and related joys and sorrows.. But what do men think about becoming a dad? Behind their silence, do they really hide a true hassle for such feminine occupation, or maybe ... ? Is it really that hard for them? If you are a dad, from the "not yet but maybe a day" level to the"Yes several times" one, then this interview is for you. If you're a mom, here's a point of view that could explain many things..
Becoming a dad - the first time
Becoming a dad the first time was.. Well, there was the novelty effect, it was all very exciting. I really enjoyed attending the prenatal classes, and paying attention to the reactions and questions of the other couples; feeling that atmosphere of preoccupied excitement.
Then childbirth.. Watching as your child comes to the world is an indescribable thrill, and at the same time it feels like a normal thing in life. An extraordinarily natural phenomenon.
I am glad to have witnessed and seen everything; that's something you don't want to miss.
Those first days you're as suspended in a time that has stopped; with such a tiny baby, that's yours, you can't just stay indifferent, regardless of how much you're a rational, thick-skinned guy.
Renown fact: nothing sweeter than the smile of a child, right? If you often spend time with a kid, you'll also be familiar with that feeling of light warmth that fills your cheeks when a child, whatever the age, smiles at you. It just gives a sense of pride, as if we had accomplished the day's mission right? And if it's your child, what an even nobler mission, than to make him happy? We often identify "making a child happy" by buying her something new, or letting her win a battle... But in the long run, are those the things that can make children smile from within? What are the little gestures that will change their day (and the people around you as well) ?
Is it easy to make children smile ?
When we come home from school, it's usually quite late. In the course of the day, I pile up a long to-do list to finish. You know, the classics : put the groceries away, take care of the laundry, and so on.
And inevitably, as soon as my kids notice that I'm starting with any of these, they come up with a very tender request, like: "Mom please, I really want to do some painting, can we do it together?" Sweet eyes and innocent look.
And I picture myself pulling out the equipment, drying the colors, chasing my little one before he repaints the white hallway's walls with his hands, and then wash all the taps .. And I often say no, looking for anything that could distract their attention.
"Mama, can you read me a story?" While I'm still wearing my coat, the phone shows 45 unread messages, it's almost time for dinner and the table is still set with breakfast.
You know what? Now, if I had to say the most beautiful smile I can think of on my children's face, it's when, unlike my usual refusal, I once happened to say, "Okay."
I forgot about the messages, the frozen food in the shopping bags, the dinner to be prepared; accepting that it would then be late, that there would be consequences.
We sat right in the middle of the hallway, and we read the whole story. I made my son so happy at the time, just by accepting the imperfection of everything else.
What are the little things we can think of to make our children smile and happy?
Stressed and worried, I've been sleeping poorly lately. I'm struggling to get my energies back, especially at night. I just would like to be left alone. But I have children who are also stressed and preoccupied. Their magic wand? Well.. Mom!
We have to get out. We're late.. My brain is lost on these circular thoughts.
Stop it! Are you getting dressed? Go brush your teeth! But what makes you think that you can jump on the bed?! Stop it, I said! 1, 2, 3 you stop now!
I look at my watch. We're late, one more time. Can you believe it! I've been waking you up earlier every day, and we're late anyways !
I feel all my helplessness and my frustration mount. Except, of course, that it doesn't make my kids move any faster.
When we finally get to the elevator, I take a deep breath. I look at my half-asleep children, their eyes full of a mix of sadness and fatigue.
My motherly tenderness replaces the Panic of infinite delay, and behold, I feel guilt rise. Why do I end up screaming like that? I know it doesn't work. And yet I have tried everything!
How can you make your children listen? What's wrong with the way I communicate?
Do you know when every silly and simple request during the day transforms into a screaming struggle? That's how life with strong-willed children can be. I hadn't even known there was a definition for it. "Parenting the strong-willed child. What do I do now? Is it a condition? Is it curable? Isn't it just normal that my child wishes to impose her will and can't yet control her emotional reactions? Or are we having misleading expectations? From strategy to understanding, your problem may become a life-changing gift.
Persistence vs Strong will
Having a strong will was something I've always believed and being told to have. To me, it meant that if I had an objective, something I really cared for, I was ready to fight, wait, and fight again despite the obstacles. Like, nothing can stop me, right?
Then one day, I have this creature in my arms. I smile, she smiles. And then little things, like me holding the spoon instead of letting her do it, or choosing which dress to wear, would ignite a fire.
She was, what, 14 months? She couldn't even talk yet. But she wanted to decide what clothes she should wear. What books we should look at. What and how much food to eat.
I was amazed at the fierce response whenever I tried to impose my own decision. I mean, I'm you mother ! I'll show you who's in control...
Mine was called persistence (or stubbornness!). One where despite my capability of never letting go, I still needed to be liked and loved by everybody.
Where I struggled with the food I ate, the looks I got, and I was so worried about other people's opinions that for such a long time I forgot to check on what I wanted and needed. How can I win with a toddler who already knows all this?! And mostly - should I try to change her?
Are you kidding me? Are we still talking about rules and the value of discipline?!" If the topic makes you snort and you're about to click elsewhere, wait a second! Think about the last time someone blocked your car in the parking lot to avoid walking 10 meters more. Or when your child didn't want to do his homework, and you justified him in front of the teacher. Then, however, when he once again refused to put his dirty socks in the laundry bin instead of leaving them around the house, you couldn't take it anymore and you yelled at him.. The problem today is that there are no more rules! Kids don't have any boundaries! Ever heard those sentences? No panic. But if you dream of a bright and satisfying future for your children, then it is worth looking at the value of discipline a little more closely.
Let's start from the beginning. Do you know when, about around 8-10 months and up, your baby starts crawling around, proudly exploring his world? At some point, he turns to you, and he looks at you with an inquisitor eye.
Not by chance. It's called social referencing. Your child is implicitly asking you: What should I do now ?
Will he find a terrified face, a semi-threatening look, or a great, encouraging smile?
Come on, we do it automatically! Remember what we saw about the baby's brain? Since such a young age, if their brains depict a smile on us, some chemical reactions take place, releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which makes us feel so good. The repetition of this connection between action and positive reaction reinforces it - that is: if I try to put on my feet, my mom looks ecstatic and I feel like a hero, so let's do it again! The brain will try to reproduce the same situation to have the same positive answer.
This process applies to any learning. Children have no idea how they should behave in the various situations and places they encounter, and they look at us to figure out how to do it.
Because in the world there are different social and geographic situations, which require very diverse adaptations, we are born with a brain that still largely needs to develop : it grows on the basis of the social and relational experiences that it faces.
A yes or a no it's no more than very important guidelines to know where and how to move, and they offer an extreme sense of safety.
You hate milk, but your child keeps insisting that you should drink it with her, because she adores it. Until your slight irritation. Then she cries, but she can't explain why... And you lose your patience. When do children begin to know how to talk about themselves, and understand that others can have different ideas and perceptions? Knowing the stages of your child's social development, and in particular the theory of mind, can help you to improve your relationship with your children. Let's see how!
I was waiting anxiously for the moment when my daughter would have been able to express her imagination, her certainties; and explain me the reason of her despair without having to enumerate infinite inconclusive hypotheses. (Because usually the answer was the only obvious thing I hadn't thought of).
You know, those times you're serenely playing together, with so many smiles. You get distracted 30 seconds for any reason, until desperate screams don't make you turn abruptly: what could possibly have happened? Honey, what is it? But in response, you only get louder cries.
You try to hug your creature, but she rejects you.. Nothing, you have to try to understand. Did you get hurt? You lost the game? Is it because I went to the kitchen for a moment to get a drink leaving you alone? Men probably feel that way when women respond "Nothing" to the question "What is it?".
But is it so obvious that the use of words coincides with the ability to talk about oneself? To understand and verbalize needs and desires, and inferences on the emotions of others? Are the two learnings figuratively like the bearing poles of a ladder, independent but interconnected, or do they need further support?
In other words: how do I explain to my son that if he doesn't tell me what's wrong, I can't help him and he will continue to cry unnecessarily?
And when will he understand that in the morning I need to leave the house on time and for me it is not important if he sits on the right or on left in the trailer of our bike, as long as we hurry?
This year, I will finally change everything! Ever thought this sentence? Maybe after New Year's Eve celebrations? The melancholy for the end of another year takes us.. But we have good resolutions this time! And this raises our morale, we can regain our strength and look up to the future with renewed optimism. A new white sheet.. What makes us perceive, in the space of a single night, this need to give new impetus to our lives? And above all .. Why planning your year, and how make you actually achieve those goals, when you're already all so busy with your kids, your everyday life?
Why planning your year... Are you Ben?
December 31st, 11 p.m. Ben looks at the light's reflection on his already half empty glass. His friends and wife are laughing at a joke he didn't listen to.
Why are we celebrating again anyways? Why waiting until midnight? It's a night like any other.
Ben is very tired, he worked until late in the afternoon at his desk, and now he would finally want to indulge in sleep. Without thinking, without wasting time to renew a meaningless tradition.
In a few days, they'll go skiing for the weekend, so as to emptying their minds. His wife loves traveling.
And so he has to work hard, to pay for the trips, the few outings, his son's school.
Maybe I'll ask for an increase in my next annual interview. They didn't give it to me last year, maybe I'll ask them this time. I'm always there when they need it.
Anyway, it's always like that. People are always there to take, but when it comes to giving.. I don't know when I have the appointment with my boss, but when that happens, I'll improvise something for sure.
Come on, we have to go back to the conversation, one more hour, and then maybe we can go home..
Here we go. We have been thinking about the many facets of this single day for months. Despite your attempts to prepare, organize, improve the whole process.. Come on, every year we fall into the same patterns. Christmas stress because of the last-minute gifts; for trying to satisfy the desires (masked by more or less compelling needs) of half the family.. obviously in contrast with each other, and in contrast with yours. Sometimes, you just wish the holidays were over. How can you overcome Christmas stress? In finding what matters...
Why are we victims of Christmas stress?
What is Christmas today? Beyond its strong religious significance, that may not be shared by everyone, it remains a universal Holiday that is celebrated in many parts of the world. This website shares Christmas traditions of about 80 countries in the world!
If we all gather under the red and the white a big man carrying the gifts in the name of the family, of the importance of giving and sharing joy; why does Christmas easily foster disagreements and anxieties?
What expectations do we have for these special 24 hours ? Where being alone puts you at suicide's risk, but sharing it with extended families is equally problematic?
Always be true. That's something I claim as important, or even fundamental, throughout this blog and my writings. Model honesty to your kids. Why would I declare loud and clear here that you can make an exception to this rule and lie to your kids about Santa? Many of you let their child believe in some kind of character that brings presents between December and January. I do it mainly because that's how I've grown up too.. Don't you? But you know, from time to time, I like to challenge myself by reconsidering things I do automatically.. If you're like me and need some change in perspective, here's my guide on why you could choose to lie to your kids about Santa, without harm to the relationship with them.
The debate around the Big Lie
I read and heard controversial opinions about whether it is good or not to lie to your kids about Santa. Psychologists, developmental experts, and parents around the web animate the debate. (you can read one of these interesting articles here, to name one). Kids should know the truth from birth. Or, you can lie when they're under 3, but then you need to tell them. Go with a white lie : you don't say he exists, but you don't say he doesn't exist either. Your kid will figure that out some day.
What's your position, by the way? And how does it make you feel? Are you comfortable with plain lying to your child, or do you feel awkward and come up with the strangest solutions?
These 7 points may come in handy 😉
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 1 : We can build our own myth
Even as an adult, I love indulging into this idea of a sweet, funny man, with his hoard of elf and reindeer, taking the burden of transporting a massive amount of presents all around the world. Of course, I KNOW it's a fantasy; but sometimes, I just like to imagine it could be real.
This, of course, raises all kind of issues. For instance, when we donate presents for disadvantaged children, the first question would be : Why doesn't Santa bring gifts to those children, first? My kids haven't asked me that question yet. And don't think I would lie then.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 2 : I believe in magic
When I was a kid, I LOVED anything Christmas-related. It was a dream, a fantasy made true. In Italy, besides Father Christmas, we have a female figure, called Befana.
She is a sort of good witch who comes in the night before January 6th. Children hang socks up the chimney, and the Befana puts sweets and candies. When I'd found out that Father Christmas didn't exist, I was so happy to at least have the Befana (sounds silly right? How in the world could I not make 1+1?). That very Christmas my parents left a handwritten, shaky note from the Befana on our window-still. I was radiant.
So much so, that I was still fantasizing over what magical trick I could have asked to Befana.
One day, I told my mom "Mom, I can ask Befana to give me a magic wand! And with a magic wand, I'd make money disappear, and we could all exchange things, and everybody would be happy!" and my mom kept answering that it wasn't possible, and I kept asking "Why?" (I was probably very insistent). In the end she snapped "But Befana doesn't exist, she can't give you a magic wand, magic wands don't exist either!"
And I wept against the car window, still thinking that magic DOES exist!
I wasn't mad at my parents for the lie. I was mad because I still wanted to believe. So I basically made up a compromise. I thought that maybe Santa does exist, but can't come up to where we live. Maybe he just brings presents to the children nearby. As long as I couldn't verify that he didn't exist, than he could still be somewhere, right?
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 3 : I don't want them to be good
One of the reasons why some claim it is bad to let your children believe in Santa, is because they shouldn't be afraid of not deserving love (and presents) when they don't behave as expected. And I completely agree : I also want my children to know they are loved NO MATTER WHAT.
And therefore, I don't usually tell them "You'd better be good or you won't have any present!" Sometimes they ask me. Do you think I was good enough? "You're ALWAYS good enough. Sometimes you make poor choices, or you do something I don't like."
Don't tell your kids that Santa brings them presents as a prize for good behavior. He brings presents because he loves to make little children happy. It all depends on the message we give them! There are other ways to teach our child to cooperate.
Because the issue here isn't about Santa. It's about the way we parent our children; for instance, by replacing menaces and punishments with consequences for poor choices. (There's a major difference in the meaning of the words we use with our kids, and the lessons they can learn!) It's about fostering intrinsic drives for positive behavior, instead of external rewards.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 4 : Let's talk about our values
Taking the time to think about the important people in our lives, sharing a nice moment.. But let's face it. The majority of us, even the most organized ones, always end up rushing through December in a constant buying mode.
We have a list and we tackle it with the urgency of a major deadline in front of us. It becomes a source of stress right?
There had been years when I hated Christmas. I hated that everything was a MUST. Even decorations.
But you know what? Despite all the stress, the moment I see a friend or relative light up because I gave him something he likes, that moment repays me off everything.
Truth is, we should give presents (and by that I mean a kind word, an unexpected phone-call, some of our time) throughout the whole year. But the routine catches up and it becomes difficult to maintain this good proposal.
Christmas time reminds us of the people that are important. Of the importance of thinking about them all, and figuring out what could make them smile. What could make them happy. We finally take the time to think about our loved ones, their passions and tastes, and pick up something we imagine they can enjoy.
And I think explaining all this process to our children is also a nice lesson for them. Because Christmas is, most and foremost, about giving and sharing. Santa is what we tell our children. It's, for me, a good occasion to talk about our values.
Of course, you can very well do the same without Santa's involvement. He just creates a very good excuse for talking about it with powerful images.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 5 : Sharing memories and traditions
As a child, I used to leave Santa and his reindeer a glass of water, and sometimes something to eat. We would think :"Poor them, they have to work so hard, they'd be happy to restore a little". Sometimes we left him our drawings or notes, to thank him.
I loved this tradition, and the caring message involved; and I just like that we continue to maintain this tradition alive, by adapting it to our own family with slight touches. I think those are such sweet and lasting memories, and they're the most precious gift we can offer our children as it partly shapes who we are.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 6 : Encourage their own thinking
My children haven't asked me THE QUESTION yet. "Is Santa real?" I don't think I would plainly and blatantly lie by saying "Of course!", and I don't encourage you to do that either. (So maybe as in this respect : No I don't think it's good to directly lie to your kid. Not in front of a direct question.)
Depending on their age, children will gradually start to make their own version of the truth.
I would turn the question into another question. "Who knows? What do you think?" And if they asked me what I do think, I'd tell them my truth : "I think it is nice to believe that there is someone that cares about you so much".
That reminds us of the importance and the beauty of giving. I like to imagine that there's someone who just spends his life preparing and giving presents to make children all around the world happy.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Reason 7 : Telling the truth or sparkle with hope?
Finally, I'd say.. Sometimes, we do feel it is ok to lie to people. When we have bad news for instance.
Imagine you're sick or having serious trouble, and you're on the phone with your old mother who can no longer help you with such matters, but still worries like crazy about you. Would you tell her "Don't worry mom, everything's under control!" Or would you tell her the plain truth; knowing she can do nothing but feel a lot of pain for not being of help? The answer is personal, and I don'think there's a right one or a bad one. I just think it would be justified to lie.
And I feel is a little of the same story here : Believing in magic and sharing this excitement make children dream and smile so much. They'll find out it's a myth. And we can tell them that we just wanted them to dream for a few years, and share their dream.
When we have a honest and deep relationship with them, Santa will not matter.
Lie to your kids about Santa? Either way...
Either way.. It all depends on what you convey. According to your own beliefs and priorities, it's the message you give that will shape the relationship with your kids. But not just at Christmas time. Sharing nice moments together.. With or without Santa. 🙂
What have you told your kids? Did you believe in Santa as a child, or in any other figure? Did that reshape your relationship with your parents? Share your thoughts and stories! The debate is ongoing, it's interesting to open our perspectives!
A few found books to talk about Christmas with your child
Some amongst many worthy books (affiliate links) :