Article in brief: children don’t need parents who act as judges all the time, but they need parents who treat them as friends by coming down to their level and understanding the reasons behind their behavior.
A father once shared with me his experience of punishing his little son because of his repeated disobedience of going around a corner in the house that he’d asked him not to go around. Each time the child went around that corner, the father punished him severely and warned him against doing that again. But sadly the child kept doing it and finally the father yelled at him and said “Didn’t I make it clear several times that you should not go around that corner?” The little boy innocently looked at him with tear-filled eyes and said “What does ‘corner’ mean, Daddy?”
When we start judging our children or labeling them through their actions, unconsciously, our children will start behaving in a way that conforms to those labels and judgments, and we will continue to interpret their new actions to confirm those premature labels and judgments that we placed on them. When we judge our child as being lazy for instance, we will subconsciously look for proof in his or her behavior to support that judgment. Such misunderstandings can be a major obstacle to healthy family relationships and it may lead to years of misunderstanding between the parent and the child. Think about it, how many times have you thought to yourself that you wish your mother (or father) understood you better?
“There is no way to have rich, rewarding family relationships without real understanding” – Stephen R. Covey.
Time passes so quickly and children grow so fast. We need to take advantage and enjoy every moment we have with them and not let judgements or arguments take precedence over relationships and understandings.
Children will go through transitional phases from childhood to adolescence and then to adulthood where parents need to be very supportive, patient and understanding. Most parents have high expectations of their children’s attitudes, neglecting the children’s growth stages that makes them behave in a certain way. Some children at the age of five or six years can exaggerate, and parents who understand that such behavior is part of their growth wouldn’t overreact to that. Parents only need to be more understanding about the changes children go through as a result of environmental influences, which may cause such exaggerated and emotional tantrums that children are used to displaying.
“When you understand, you don’t judge” – Stephen R. Covey.
However, being a flexible and understanding parent does not come without limits. Parents can be friends with their children but they should know where to draw the line in their friendship, because children are not emotionally mature to take such a responsibility. Even though they are not able to express it, children feel comfortable when they understand the boundaries that are set for them by their parents, especially when their parents are consistent in applying those boundaries and simple house rules. Many stages of a child’s life involve struggling with emotional problems coming from school or friends and this is a chance for parents to display their patience with the child. It is important to provide the sort of environment where the child can express their feelings and share concerns without feeling judged or misunderstood. If parents act authoritatively to instill a sense of obedience and respect in the child, it may compel the child to act aggressively and express disapproval. This is a common scenario that takes place, and it mainly occurs because the parents did not step out of that judgmental bias to understand the child’s concerns.
Parents should listen to their children empathetically and guide them towards adaptive behaviors. If they don’t listen to their children and support the development of their feelings, someone else will take that role and listen to them. In some cases, this could lead to a more harmful influence. Children are watching parents all the time and what parents do influences them. It is important that parents communicate and create an atmosphere where children are willing to talk and pour out their feelings; this will help to turn any negative situations around.
“As long as we’re in the role of judge and jury, we rarely have the kind of influence we want” – Stephen R. Covey.
The most important thing you can do for your children is being present with your body, mind, and soul. Listen to them without judgment. Offer them your entire attention without jumping to conclusions and trust that with your support they will make the right decisions. Parents need to come down to their children level, approach situations from their point of view and see the whole world through their eyes.
Written in collaboration with Arabian Child organization. Visit www.arabianchild.org for more information about early childhood education in the United Arab Emirates.