Once while driving home from a family vacation, we stopped along the interstate to grab a quick bite to eat. Keep in mind, a stop along the interstate is never quick as one would like it to be, especially when you happen to pick the restaurant short on staff and ten orders deep.
In the midst of several people waiting, I noticed a young couple, between the ages of 20-25. From what I could gather, they were still in the stage of “getting to know one another”. They were sharing childhood memories back and forth pertaining parental response to their personal mistakes or mishaps as young children. Normally, I am not one to eaves drop into a conversation, but my spirit was drawn to the sound of their words.
I first heard the young man say, “I was four the first time I got caught stealing; my mom was so upset.” The girl smiled and said, “My dad always told me he was disappointed in me.”
The young man threw himself back and sighed, “That’s the worst.”
She smirked and said, “I know, sometimes I wish he would have just spanked me.”
It was in that moment that I began to discern what the young couple was really trying to say. They wished their parents would have verbalized instruction to them in another way. What really grabbed my attention was the tone in which the young girl shared her story. I could hear in her voice and see in her demeanor that, even today, she still feels like a disappointment. Like most parents, her father’s intention was never to hurt or harm his daughter; I’m sure he loves her very much. However, it seems she feels more like a disappointment in his eyes than the real treasure she really is to him. A sour seed was planted early in her way of thinking by a parent with a good intention. Simply reacting, instead of speaking from the heart, can create an untrue image of how children view themselves. To quote Kathy Graham, “If we are to truly ‘help life’, we must think and then speak from the heart.”
In order to communicate acceptance to our children, the undoubted truth that lives in the heart of all parents, we must learn to respond appropriately. In the Montessori Tides classroom children are accepted and behaviors are redirected. Learning to apply that same tool in the home has everlasting benefits.
Communicating acceptance: even when we do not accept the child’s behavior, we still love and accept the child. For example, if a child is angry and hits his mom, the best approach is:
(1) Note society likes to call this physical display of emotion “tantrum.” When we slam a door, throw a pencil, or kick a tire, we’re simply “angry” or “frustrated.”Think about this! Instead of reacting and shaming the child for simply expressing anger or frustration in the only language available at the moment, choose to give the child words to replace the negative action with an acceptable way of expressing that feeling.
(2) Choose a neutral moment (which means not an emotionally charged moment when the adult is still upset with the mishap. It is better to calm down and then talk).
(3) Give an amusing, exaggerated and interesting lesson, showing the child how to behave in another way. “I can see you are angry”. In this way we are accepting that the child feels angry, but it must be expressed appropriately. “You may put your hands on your hip and say that makes me mad”.