Tag Archives: feedback

Age Awareness

8 Aug

{This post is part of a recurring series of thoughts about perspective with our children}

As we grow and experience life, our view changes constantly. It is hard to find a more important tool than perspective to enable us to better understand the subtle nuances and issues in all of our relationships, especially our relationship with our children. We, as parents, have to take the time and spend the energy to step outside of our ‘age’ awareness and put ourselves in their shoes. This is very difficult even in the easiest of times, and it is possible that our experiences are so different than our children’s that we simply can not put ourselves in their shoes. In this case, we have to work even harder, use our imagination, and stretch our reality. This is not easy for most of us.

Perspective Takes Consistent Work

I know a single mother who was completely unable to understand her 11-year-old son’s reluctance to play Little League baseball. She kept telling him, “It’s a really fun game. All your friends are playing.” Because she was unable to put herself in the same place as her son, she didn’t realize that he was actually embarrassed to play. When it was his turn to bat, he was afraid of getting hit by the ball. This is a common initial fear when learning baseball, but how would you know this if you had never played? I suggested that she talk to her son and let him know that she did not understanding the game of baseball and ask him why he was having so much difficulty. After a bit of nudging, he told her everything (it seems that we always want to tell our moms everything). I also advised her to think back to her childhood, try to identify a similar experience, and then talk to him from that perspective. She easily remembered playing kickball when she was in the fourth grade and experiencing the very same fear. At that moment she completely understood her son’s apprehensions and emotions. This simple exercise turned their relationship around. It did not fix everything, but the boy began to behave and listen to her because she was able to acknowledge or empathize with his experience.

Unfortunately, she did not continue relating in this manner when issues became more complex, and she lost credibility. A couple of years later, the boy was out of reach and reluctantly went to live with his dad. They have since patched up their relationship but they each lost the opportunity to share their lives with each other. Understanding and incorporating another’s perspective takes consistent work, and must be applied in all relationships all the time, especially with our children.

To read more posts in this series, come back to read Getting On Their Level on August 15th.

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10 Ways To Spoil Your Kids (in a good way!)

11 Jul

 

Want to print this as a reminder? Download the PDF version by CLICKING HERE.

 

The Struggle For Control

29 May

{This post is part of a recurring series of thoughts about control and children.}

 Truthfully, early childhood is similar to incarceration, because children can do little without their parents’ assistance, their direct participation, or their approval; nor do they have any significant responsibilities. They are completely dependent and can neither choose their options, nor remove themselves from their controlled environment. The older our children get, the more they strive for independence and freedom from this perceived incarceration. At about six months old, kids/children begin subtly expressing that their personal wishes don’t coincide with our own; putting us squarely in conflict practically from the get go! This is the beginning of their natural resistance to control.

The simple but social fact that our opposition to control, on a much larger scale, has generated most of the monumental changes in our world; and has been an important and critical process of progress and change. It is how we are wired. We humans seem to resist control even more than we resist change…at any age!

It is easy to create the illusion of control. When my boys were young, if I spoke in a loud, sharp voice, they would stop instantly; and for a moment, I was sure I had them! I believed I could control my kids with my voice and sheer determination, but they were really just being forced to pay attention by my strong action and louder-than-normal voice. This is not control, but rather just directs their attention to my issue. I remember the time when I tossed Ian (my older son at age 11) because of his completely unacceptable behavior. Although it was a very short toss to a comfortable landing in the couch, it seemed like I had control at the time because I held the power for a brief moment. But power is not the same as control. It was my fortunate opportunity to establish my dominant position at that time and that time only. Although it came from a place of anger and frustration and is not what I believe is good parenting, it straightened out his attitude and created a clear understanding. However, I never attempted it again.

At age 17, did you really believe that your parent had control over you? At what point do you think your parents lost control and you gained it? These are important questions to ask ourselves because they reach the root of our perceptions of control, as well as our instinct to rebel against anything that resembles it. The illusion of parental control develops during the child’s early state of dependency, but this temporary dominance will pass quickly and we probably will not become aware of its fading until it is too late to do much about it.

I remember when I first realized that my idea of control was an illusion. Ian, my first son, was just starting to talk, which was wonderful for me because I could begin to communicate with and relate to him. One of his first strongest first words was “no.” When I heard the first “no” from Ian, I was dumbstruck. I could not fathom how he could choose to use it so perfectly and be able to clearly express his choice. When he said, “No,” he was telling me that he wanted to make a different decision. Of course, he was too young to understand all the ramifications of most any decision at that age, but nonetheless, he felt compelled to decide for himself, and was already beginning to wrestle control from me, control I really didn’t have. By trying not to exert my control I was able to focus on other aspects of our expanding relationship with more joy, less tension, and depth.

Please check back with me on 5/31/2012 for more on this topic! Until then, feel free to let me know if you have any questions or thoughts.

Move From Control, Toward Influence

24 May

{This post is part of a recurring series of thoughts about control and children.}

Image via Lindsey Gee

Kids make hundreds of poor judgments/calls- and so do adults, for that matter it’s unrealistic to expect otherwise. The effort parents put into trying to control their children’s experiences could be better spent teaching them how to analyze opportunities and make better, though not perfect, decisions. This is harder work, indeed. When we are not trying to control our kids, we are left with the responsibility of teaching them how to manage life directly, realistically and with awareness of consequences. It may appear daunting, but when we change our mindset away from control and toward influence, many daily activities become substantially more enjoyable for both parties because we no longer have to tightly hold together (control) all the little pieces of their very active lives. A great man once told me, “Control is like trying to put five fingers on five fleas…you can’t do it.” It doesn’t hurt to try, but let go if it begins to create too much resistance especially if their safety is not in serious danger.

Please check back with me on 5/29/2012 for more on this topic! Until then, feel free to let me know if you have any questions or thoughts.

Children, Sports and Parental Involvement

20 Mar

{This post is the first of on an ongoing thought series on children’s involvement in sports, as well as parental influence and contribution.}

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Someone asked me the other day about sports and kids… in particular they asked how much, as parents, they should support the process. My first response was to say, “A lot,” but then I thought about it a bit and instead said, “Enough to help them absorb and maintain their own excitement”. What did I mean? I meant that we have to embrace the event in which they are involved with our own genuine enthusiasm based on the real level of our personal experience. It is great if we can have some practical understanding and even better if we are fortunate enough to have had some personal experience of our own.

Ian & Max with Trophies

The Boys with Bike Race Trophies

If our child is going to ballet and neither parent has ever experienced it, or maybe not even experienced any organized dance in his or her own childhood, then the best we can hope for is to simply, and without added drama, hop on board with our children’s enthusiasm and refrain from piling on any of our own, since we have no actual direct experience. Imagining or making up excitement without first hand experience may come back to bit us later on if they begin to take the sport seriously. Then they may not take our excitement for them as real or genuine and therefore may not take it seriously.