My 2yo son, Ridhan often spends his early evenings at the park and then he visits our store to play with the sales staffs, helps us with the billing, and now he has also started asking customers – how may I help you?
So last evening as usual as he was playing, there was a moment when he lay on the floor to observe an ant walking.
As he lied on the floor, a customer who was closely watching him play, quietly said, “you are a dirty boy, lying like this on the floor.”
I often put such labels of judgement to my deaf ears because I realize that I have no control over what people say, but I have control over how I respond to such judgement.
What surprised me was that after some time, when I was playing with Ridhan he asked me, “papa, am I really a dirty boy?“
Now what do I reply? I was almost going to convince him about how he is clean, good and smart. And that he shouldn’t worry about what others say. And blah blah blah…The list could go long because in that moment I was concerned about making him feel good.
But I PAUSED. I didn’t want to react, I wanted to respond with an effectiveness to guide him in finding an answer of his own.
So, I use this powerful tool in parenting called – ASK.
I ask questions to probe, to reflect, to encourage, to empower, to support, and I believe it is a also a great way of listening and connecting with our children.
So I asked him back, “Do you think, you are a dirty boy?”, and he replied – NO.
And I said, “that’s about it. You are what you believe about yourself.”
So one question, one answer and one reply back. All it took was three sentences to get the conversation done. Such conversations can go a long way in building a child’s confidence and self-esteem.
Such conversations would also encourage him to respect his own emotions and beliefs and not get affected by other’s words of critic, judgement or insult.
Later in the day when I shared this conversation with my wife, she curiously asked me, “what if he had replied to your question with a YES. Yes I think I am a dirty boy. Then what would you said?”
And my reply was – ASK. Ask him again if being dirty then brought him joy and happiness? If it did, then that’s all we seek and ask for our children – joy and happiness, isn’t it?
Our positive words of encouragement, explanation, advice or support will barely help the child in times of self-doubt.
So, ASK. It would really bring a massive difference in our children’s lives is when we help them discover how they feel about themselves when the world outside is constantly judging them of their actions and words.