If there was just one thing that a parent should try to master, I would say it would be communication. In this day and age of technological miracles, you’d think that we as a human race would actually be getting better at communicating with one another. But, in fact, the opposite is true. Typed words, whether they be on a large screen or a phone screen, are very limited in what they can convey. Eye contact, body language, inflection and tone play a part in how we communicate, probably to a higher degree than merely speaking words. Think about exactly why you experience “road rage” when driving a car. You are driving along, minding your own business, when bam! some guy cuts you off in traffic. Even the most patient, kind-hearted person is going to probably jump to a negative conclusion. We tend to assume that other people’s actions are targeted at us personally. Now, think about the last time you actually cut someone off in traffic. Not exactly the same scenario, is it? My instance involved dropping something on the floor, digging for it, while trying to maneuver. Irresponsible, but not trying to personally insult anyone. If this was happening in such a way that all factors of communication could be seen, the amount of anger would probably rarely get to the “road rage” level. My actions, and my humble spirit as I said, “Excuse me” would most likely diffuse the situation.
When my kids were babies, I explained everything to them. If a stove was hot, I’d tell them not to reach up and pull things off, because the stuff was hot and it would burn them. If I wanted them to clean their room, I’d explain why. I’ve answered a million and one “why” questions, even if my answer was simply “I don’t know”. I found that my children developed a trust in me that only true, honest communication can deliver.
I am reminded of a time when my eldest daughter Rebekkah asked me if she could go over to a friend’s house and hang out. I told her no, not because I didn’t trust her or her friend, but because I’d had a long, hard day at work, and all I wanted to do was lie around, eat junk food, and watch tv. If she was out, I’d have to stay up until she got home, and I just didn’t want to do that this particular evening. I was super surprised when she quickly acquiescent to me. Later, she told me that it wasn’t hard to obey me since I explained my decisions.
“I never wonder why you will or won’t let me do stuff…you always explain it perfectly so I understand.” I loved hearing those words.
I was raised in a culture that says that children are to obey their parents without question, but I’m not sure that you can develop real trust between any two human beings without there being a strong foundation of communication. And by the time my children got to the terrible teen years, explanations actually were less necessary. I’d already spent most of their childhood explaining every thing I did to them. The trust was already there.
My kids never yelled at me. They never told me even once they hated me, nor did they say negative things to other people about me. In fact, Dj actually beat someone up at school when he was in the 4th grade for something the kid said about Dj’s mother.
I’m not some kind of wonder parent, nor do I believe that all of my methods were successful. But I do know that in the area of communication, this family has mad skills. Treating your little baby human like a whole separate person deserving of respect, honesty, and communication tends to cut out the problems later down the road.
That is just my two cents on parenting….