If you’re a grandmother, watching your babies grow into adolescents, then time whizzes.
If you’re a first-time mother, anxiously awaiting the arrival of your colicky six-month-old’s first tooth, so that you can sleep through the night once again, then time crawls.
If you’re a seasoned mother, when you’re dealing with the terrible twos and intolerable teens and trying in-betweens, then time drags. But, when you rush to make dinner before the bus beeps, settle the little ones before the next division marches in, tidy up some housework before the night slips away, then time speeds.
In reality, the clock moves consistently. It doesn’t skip a second, it doesn’t pause for a millisecond. It’s our challenge to stop pushing the clock backwards-and stop racing the clock forwards. We must aim to live with the clock, appreciating the special gift that every new present offers us.
Yes, we have lofty goals for our children’s future. However, we have to be understanding of their “growth capacity” in the present.
It’s crucial to realize that growth is a gradual process. Plants don’t sprout overnight. Neither do children. While you anxiously wait for your offshoots to blossom, you may see very little apparent improvement. Yet, deep underground, all your nurturing and nudging is planting seeds of growth.
It’s important for us to be patient, to realize that life takes time. How much time and effort does it take for us, adults, to master one good trait? Children are people, too. And change is difficult for them, as well. We must be understanding, encouraging and patient. Very patient and very encouraging. Then, with parental guidance, some day in the future, we will see positive results.
It’s important to realize that growth is a process. A process has steps. A person undergoes various stages. We must demand age-appropriate expectations. We must know where our children are holding, in order to help them keep on climbing the ladder. After all, we can’t expect to reach the top of a ladder if we skip pivotal rungs. Evaluate whether expectations are age-appropriate and realistic.
After all, if we push our child to do something before he’s ready, we’ll have to push. And “pushing things down his throat” breeds resentment. Once an action is associated with bad feelings, it’s very difficult to undo the damage done-even when it is already the appropriate time for the child to assume this responsibility.
Behaviors a child will outgrow, we can overlook. Behaviors that grow with the child, we must correct.”
What a powerful lesson! Sometimes, we become frustrated that our two-year-old bites, our four-year-old doesn’t share his new toy and the five-year-old fights. Of course we have to put a stop to improper behavior. However, we must realize that we are dealing with a two-year-old, who is acting like…a two-year-old. And that’s the way he’s meant to behave!
This brings us to our final thought. Enjoy your two-year-old, your ten-year-old, your twenty-two-year old. True, our children are still a “project-in-progress.” True, the process takes time. But, enjoy it while it’s here.There are so many singular joys, unique to every stage of life. We must take a moment to pause and thank God for the challenges, the triumphs, the pleasures and the pains of this special present. Because, when you think about life, it speeds by so fast. All too quickly, this special stage of motherhood, when we are the focal point in our child’s life, is replaced by new stages with different sweet moments. So, treasure the gift of the present.
“You really shouldn’t let your child manipulate you.”
“You really shouldn’t eat dessert. It will ruin your diet.”
How would you feel if someone told you these helpful statements? Defensive? Annoyed? Angry? If so, you are not alone. It is challenging to hear rebuke even if it is for one’s own benefit.
As parents, it is our obligation to give our children rebuke and guide them on the correct path. If we will not nudge them gently in the right direction, how will they know not to stray? At the same time, we cannot just dispense heaping spoonfuls of rebuke. At best, the child will tune it out; at worst, he will rebel. Either way, the child will most likely become crushed and broken. Giving rebuke in a positive, effective manner is a balancing act. When given respectfully and smartly, we can get our messages across and still maintain our child’s dignity. As is said by the age-old adage, “Dispense criticism like pepper and compliments like sugar.”
As you are about to give rebuke, it should be done out of love and care (put your arm around the child’s shoulder, pat his hand while rebuking him), rather than stemming from anger or embarrassment. A motive such as, “what will the neighbors think?” or “this is ruining our family reputation” is not valid. If your child has done something wrong and you are not in the state of mind to give him rebuke, either wait until your feelings simmer or have another objective party do the guiding.
When rebuking your child, choose your words carefully. Be clear. Keep it short and sweet. Sometimes, even a stern look or gesture can be enough to get a message across. Don’t use sarcasm, put-downs or comparisons. Keep your tone of voice friendly. Don’t start a discussion or argument. Try to think of a positive way of phrasing your message, such as “When your blouse is tucked in, you really look like a princess.”
Most importantly, try to preserve your child’s self-esteem and self-image. Of course, that means to give rebuke in private and to criticize the action not the person, such as your room is so messy vs. you are a slob. Your goal is to improve character traits. Below are some suggestions how to do this:
- Allow the child to figure out on his own what he did wrong. It is much easier to swallow the rebuke that way. So, instead of yelling at your seven-year-old for bossing his playmate, you can tell him, I saw how you treated your friend when he came over. How do you think he felt?
- Remember to use the skill of negative-I messages. “When I entered the living room and saw the food left by your studying team, I felt annoyed at your lack of responsibility and initiative to clean up.”
- With younger children, you can weave a message into a story about a child of the opposite gender, living in a different city…with the same challenge. Or you can find a book with a message similar to the one you wish to impart.
- You can describe what you see going on, rather than offer direction. I see toys on the floor that can cause someone to trip. You can also state rules, rather than give orders, such as when milk spills, we use a rag to clean it up.
- For children who have a hard time accepting rebuke, you can sugar-coat your words by keeping your message open-ended. For example, “You might want to consider eating breakfast today, since you need more energy to take the big test…”
- Always try to teach your child a skill rather than criticizing a given area. For example, instead of telling your son his briefcase is messy, teach him how to organize it.
- Finally, teach your child that accepting rebuke is a skill to work on. You are their role model, teaching them to accept rebuke graciously. Children must understand that to improve, we must all listen to each other’s constructive criticism.
Of course, it’s hard to master the skill of giving rebuke effectively. However, it’s even harder not to give rebuke at all and hardest to give it in a constructive way. So, keep these words of rebuke in mind…as you give your child rebuke and honest feedback.
Did you ever feel annoyed or angry at someone for giving you rebuke in an inconsiderate manner?
Understanding your child is like piecing together a puzzle. It involves listening to what your child is saying, thinking about his underlying message, focusing on his body language…and assembling his complete picture.
All too often, while our child is talking, his words whiz from one of our ears through the other, but we still have not heard what he is trying to express. For example, your seventh grade daughter announces, “I’m not inviting friends over anymore.” Is she trying to say that she no longer has any friends to invite? Or is she telling you that she’s embarrassed that the house is messy and disheveled. Or your ninth grade son says, “There’s nothing wrong with smoking.” Is he trying to assert his power? Be one of the “gang?” Or is he in the mood of being contrary? It’s not enough to merely hear; we must listen, perceive and understand.
How do we become more perceptive?
For starters, listen with your whole body. You should stop washing the dishes or balancing the checkbook. Focus. Make eye contact. And really listen. You’ll be surprised at what you discover.
While listening, make use of the active listening skills you’ve mastered.
- Reflect your child’s feelings and message.
- Repeat the information you’ve heard back to your child to ensure that you’ve understood him correctly. This will reassure the child that you have heard him and understood him or give him the opportunity to clarify his needs in case of error.
- Throughout the conversation, listen non-judgmentally. All too often, we’re too busy formulating responses instead of focusing on the other person’s words. That turns the conversation into a rebuttal. Be accepting. You will make your home a safe place for open conversation.
Deciphering the Actions
Besides understanding our child’s verbal messages, we also must decode his unspoken messages, sent to us via his actions. Children don’t act out of character without reason. As parents, it is our obligation to try to discover the motive behind our child’s irregular behavior.
For example, your child comes home from school unusually quiet. Is he angry or sad about something that happened in school?
During mealtime, your child is barking, criticizing and talking with impatience. Is he angry or annoyed, and about what?
Your child is jumpy and wild. He may be excited about an event that has happened or will happen.
Your child is feeling slow and lazy. He may be tired or in need of a break.
Your child is fighting with his siblings. He doesn’t feel noticed, accepted or loved, so he may therefore provoke others.
Your child is hurting others. He may be feeing hurt or jealous.
A child acts out when he is unhappy. There is always a trigger, and it is our responsibility to identify it. There are four mistaken goals of behavior, attention, power, revenge and inadequacy. Usually, a child’s behavior is a reflection of inner emotions. Behaviors are supposed to be red flags, telling us to probe deeper. When a parent assesses a child based entirely on external factors, he often misses the punch line. It’s like a doctor who pronounces a diagnosis after observing his patient’s external symptoms.
When we fine-tune our listening, our observation and our perception, we can attain greater levels of sensitivity and empathy.
Did you wish as a child that your mother would’ve listened better to you?
Learning Made Easy Talk Radio with Bonnie Terry, America’s Leading Learning Specialist!
Each week Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET covers different aspects of learning. They cover reading, writing, spelling, math, and study skills. They also talk about dyslexia, ADHD, learning disabilities, asperger’s syndrome, autism, and much more. Additionally Bonnie interviews other experts on learning as well as answers your questions and gives out homework tips. Email your questions to email@example.com and put Learning Made Easy Talk Radio in the topic line.
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This week Bonnie is interviewing Sharon Green. Sharon will be sharing parenting tips regarding natural consequences. The interview will be taking place tomorrow, Tuesday February 26 at 7:30 a.m. PT (10:30 Eastern) & 1:30 p.m. PT (4:30 Eastern).
A replay will air on March 17th.
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