Has this ever happened to you?
You drop your child off by daycare/babysitter/caregiver. When you return to pick them up, you ask the usual question "How was he/she today?" and their response is more or less on the side of your child being the most well-behaved, perfect child in the world. You are shocked for a second (because whatttt?!) and then comes the series of questions: Are we talking about the same child who refuses to eat their food at home? Refuses to bathe and brush their teeth? Gives hell to take their medication?!
Actually, quite recently Xary stayed home with Roy and when I got home and asked the abovementioned question, he told me "She was rel nice today. We played, read books, she helped me clean up"... Guys! I can't even explain the way my jaw dropped when he said that... What do you meannn sir?!
Why is it that they behave so perfectly with other people but with their mother (you know, the one who birthed them and loves and cares for them unconditionally), most times they behave the total opposite? Am I doing something wrong? Why is this happening?
Well fear not! This is apparently normal.
So there was this recently published "study" that caused quite the stir online because its findings concluded that children behave 800% worse when their mothers are present than when anyone else is. The study indicated that the reason for this was pheromones. According to Dr. K.P. Leibowitz, the alleged author of the research, “Children smell their mother’s pheromones and modify their behavior. This is a natural reaction of the mother’s body, and because she emits them and her child smells them, he knows that his mother is close to him and feels protected and safe.” *bombastic side eye*
Despite the study being called out as fake subsequently, a lot of persons (predominantly mothers) have agreed with its conclusions and psychologists have provided reasons as to why this happens.
But before we get to the professionals' takes, here's what I think happens. Think about your own behaviour as a big ole adult. Have you ever changed your behaviour around persons you're not too familiar with? You tend to behave more quiet or even more put together around them right? Why is that? It's because you're unsure as to how they would react to you. However, when you're around your friends and family, you're more comfortable and feel safe knowing that they love you, even when you have an off day. Our children are the exact same way.
Now for the professionals' point of views:
Dr. Steve Silvestro, Paediatrician and host of The Child Repair Guide podcast noted that children may display more extreme behaviour when they want something from us. It's attention-seeking; "Our kids love us and crave our attention... even negative attention is better than no attention at all". Dr. Silvestro also noted that parents are more inconsistent with their responses than other adults which can cause this behaviour. For example, teachers or caregivers care for many kids at the same time so as a survival mechanism, children adhere more consistently to their rules and routine, since they would offer less leeway than parents when it comes to bad behaviour.
Similarly, Zuleyvic Cuicas of YouAreMom Magazine also noted that children demand your attention - they need all the affection and attention you can give to them. "Even when you give them alot, they need more". She also stated that as a result of spending a lot of time with your child, the relationship between the two of you is one of trust (greater trust than with any other person, including their father) which sometimes causes them to give "free rein" to their emotions. When they seek comfort, they will look for you but in their fathers, they may look for other things like fun, games, experiences.
So what can we mothers do about this?
I've read recently that when we allow our children to behave "badly", we're also allowing them to be vulnerable around us, which encourages security and closeness... because technically, they don't really intend to be bad, they just can't express themselves properly in the moment.
For me, I'm trying to embrace the good times as well as the bad. I try to permit Xaryah's acting out a bit - not too often though, but just as much as my mental state allows. Also, I've been actively using the tips I provided in a previous blog post on how I deal with the tantrums. As moms, we really do get the rockiest piece of land sometimes but it seems to be all a part of the process of growing the physically and mentally healthy human beings we call our children.