How often do parents use a combination of scolding, advising, threatening, criticising, lecturing and even go the extent of thrashing their child, hoping and believing that this is one of the best methods to give children a piece of their mind.
I was young, probably in my 4th grade. My mum was working at a relatively closer distance, I deliberately lit a small piece of paper and sprayed perfume on it. The flame exacerbated, turning my mum’s attention towards me.
I was hoping she would feel proud that her son is experimenting with fire at such an early age. But I was surprised, my mum saw something much deeper than I was expecting.
She thought I was a fool and she struck a hard slap across those chubby cheeks of mine which immediately turned red.
She was extremely furious and mad and she said, “Have you got any sense? Were you attempting to cause an arson? What if the carpet had caught fire? What if the fire would gulp the whole house with its flame?”. And the series of what if questions kept coming one after the other, intending to help me learn a lesson by making me feel bad, guilty, shameful and, embarrassed.
But all I wanted was to make my mum feel proud of seeing me play with fire and appreciate my curiosity regarding the small act of experiment. My whole intention failed and all I could create was an arson for my chubby little cheeks.
Ouch..! They were really red and burning. I was seated at the corner of my bed and was sobbing hard, I think she must have heard it. She slowly walked into my room and started apologising and politely advising me. She would gently slip the consequences of what a fire could do and finally asked me –
“I hope you now understand what I was concerned about and promise me that you wouldn’t do something like this again”. I promised her and hugged her tight as she wiped those tears rolling down my cheek.
And only after a week or ten days, I was caught trying to burn plenty of newspapers. I had added lots of dry red chillies and salt into the fire. Just as I saw my mum charging toward me, I took a run for my life, shouting, “I saw the landlady burning these newspaper along with the salt and these red chillies. I just wanted to see what would happen”.
I ran out of the house to play cricket with my friends and vowed to return home only in the evening as her anger would subside. And hoping that she would understand me and forget what had happened.
And as I stepped into the house – BAAAM. Ouch! One hard slap again…Well, she hadn’t forgotten anything, I felt like a mouse trapped in a cage.
But my mum failed to understand that I was just a 10-year-old boy, exploring my curiosity and seeking attention and appreciation from my parents. Oh boy! Could I put my emotions, expectations and needs into words and share them with my parents?
Has any child ever been able to do that? Or, now that I’m a grown adult and if I were to give words to my emotions and expressions, I could have then said, “Mom, I feel lonely at home when no one is around. You and Dad are at the store all day until 10 p.m. I feel bored and I’d like to try new stuff and share it with you guys. Since we barely talk, I hear fewer words of appreciation and encouragement from you. I want you to know that I really care what you guys think about me”.
Research has proven that children express their emotions through behaviour. They can’t articulate and give words and share their feelings and emotion.
As parents, we believe that a piece of advice, lecture or scolding would help the child learn the lessons of life. If the child apologises, we believe he or she has learnt the lesson.
It would be great if you could pause and think about the perspective that I’m sharing below.
“Will acceptance of a mistake and an apology ensure that the child has learnt his lesson?
stepping into the shoes of a child and understanding his behaviour (modelling empathy), forgiving them even before they ask for it (displaying the power of forgiveness), and asking them about how they could have behaved or acted differently (helping build decision-making skills and encouraging curiosity) – would this process help the child learn valuable lessons of life?”
I believe you now get a hint of what I mean by the quote – “old ways, won’t open new doors”.
So the next time when you find yourself telling –
- “How many times do I have to remind you of…….”, instead can you say – “I know you find it hard to do, let me know if I can help you with it” (non-judgement and empathy)
- “Don’t you dare talk to me like that”, instead can you say – “I realize you are upset (acknowledge feelings), let me help you. (Listen) and ask questions, “Can you think of an alternate solution? If you have to do it all over again, how would you do it differently?” (encouraging decision making)
- “No, you are not going out today”, instead ask yourself – ‘are you saying no just to exercise your power or do you have genuine reasons’. (know oneself) Can genuinely ask, “I have got a lot of work to do around, it would be great to have some help. Is there any possibility you can reschedule your plans?” (Respecting other’s emotions & modelling asking help)
If you are seeking to build stronger bonds with your children, infuse more energy and positivity in your family, you will have to open new doors of communication. If things change inside you, things will start to change around you.
So, let’s open new doors of communication with our children. New doors to endless possibilities and opportunities. New doors to encourage their curiosity. New doors to build higher self-esteem. New doors to nurture them in a manner where we raise them to become independent and responsible adults.