Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is your child a PERSON?

“Once upon a time”…there was a lady…and she was preparing a ham for dinner one night. Her daughter watched as her mother cut both ends off the ham before putting it into the roasting pan.
“Mom, why do you cut off the ends of the ham?” she asked.

The mother stopped for a second and thought about it, “You know, I don’t know. It’s just what my mom always did.”

The next time they visited her mother’s house, aka Grandma’s house, they asked, “Why do you cut off both ends of your ham before cooking it?”

Grandma stopped for a second and thought about it, “You know, I don’t know. It’s just what my mom always did.”

Great Grandma then came rolling out into the kitchen in her wheelchair so they asked her, “Why did you always cut off both ends of the ham when you cooked it?”

Great Grandma just shrugged and said, “It was because my roasting pan was too small it wouldn’t fit.”

This sounds funny or even silly but this is no isolated incident…This same behavior happens every day with almost everybody. 

Unfortunately, not all of the behaviors are as unimportant as cutting off the end of a ham…

Since I have realized this I have made a conscious attempt to really analyze the things I do when something comes to my attention…as it did the other night with my 5 year old…

My 9 year old son was seated at the kitchen table and my 5 year old approached him. Next thing I know there’s fussing, hollering, and hands flying, with my 5 year old yelling and stomping away down the hall. As I saw her heading down the hall I noticed that she had in her hand the pair of binoculars that a friend had given us that were worth well over $100 new. I didn’t want her stomping off with them and maybe hurting them so I said to her as she was walking, “Give me those binoculars!”
Her response was, “No! I don’t want to!” and off she ran down the hall.

My husband followed her to her room where the binoculars lay discarded in one spot and she was curled up in a ball on the bed crying. She didn’t care about the binoculars. She was unresponsive to his questioning about, “Why didn’t you listen to Mom?”

I thought about it and this situation was definitely a classic example of when a “traditional parenting” type parent would get very self-righteous and demand that the child show more respect and deal with the child’s “rebellion”.

A “traditional parenting” approach would have been to force the child to apologize for being rebellious and disrespectful to Mom, to punish the child for their rebellion, and to definitely MAKE them give Mom the binoculars as Mom had commanded. 

But now, thinking about the whole “ham” thing…OK…so what’s REALLY going on in this situation?

I put myself into her position…she’s 5…she approaches her older brother who somehow offends her…hits her…and she’s mad…she’s stomping off because she’s offended and upset somehow and her parents…those who are supposed to love her and protect her instead express an “I don’t care about your troubles” attitude when Mom makes it clear her primary concern is those binoculars. When I saw mySELF upset about something and stomping off and saw someone who cared about me worrying about some “object” instead, I could see me wanting to throw/smash/destroy that object. Hmmm…How would I want to be treated if I felt as she did at that moment???

So, thinking of my 5 year old as a small “me” I asked her what happened that made her mad? I asked, “Why”. She said that when her brother’d been talking to her he’d spit in her face (by accident) and when she’d fussed about it he’d hit her.

Was she understandably upset? Did I then rise to the occasion and protect her? Did I offer her comfort and guide her (shepherd) her in the situation as to how to best deal with her feelings?

No. Mom was not worried about her feelings at all. Mom basically said, “WHATEVER!” about her feelings, “Now gimme those binoculars!”

So, I tried to let her know she was understood…I said to her, “So, he spit on you by accident and then was mean to you and hurt your feelings and I didn’t help you at all did I? I’m sorry I didn’t help you. Will you forgive me?”

And, at that, her whole countenance changed. She got a HUGE smile on her face and jumped up and hugged me and told me, “Yes.” and, “I love you Mommy!” and she giggled. Then, she scampered (as opposed to sulking or stomping) back to her room and came back out and happily brought me the binoculars…

You can make your kids “obey” and they will learn to suppress and ignore their own feelings and alter their behavior to be suitable to another person and they can obey out of fear and they will appear to be a very “well behaved child”…or you can treat them like a person (you can do unto them as you’d have someone do unto you) and once they feel loved and respected they change their behavior all on their own out of love for you and they will be a happy and emotionally happy child…

When you have a child who is “disciplined” and is well-behaved…all that tells you is that they’ve learned how to behave. They have learned how to act in pleasing ways to authority despite how they feel. Key word – they have learned how to “act”. Their behavior then has nothing to do with how they feel and therefore offers you no indication as to what’s going on in their hearts.

When you have a child who is “loved and respected” and is well-behaved…that tells you that their hearts are happy and content…their behavior is then a thermometer showing you the temperature of the things inside them…

When a child who has not been taught “to obey” obeys…you know that’s their heart…they have a heart of obedience because of love…

It’s so simple and obvious…but most of us are all too busy “cutting off the ends of our ham” (reacting to our kids and parenting the way we’ve always been parented and the way everyone just does) to THINK about what and why we’re doing things…and how it might affect the person it’s being done to…

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