As a mum of two lovely children, I didn’t fully understand the importance of respecting my kids because I felt respect was an esteemed and sole right of parents. I presumed parenting meant having absolute control and not giving them opportunity to participate in some decision making. Occasionally, I felt my nine-year-old was incapable of making sensible suggestions so I rarely asked him for his opinion. I took no notice of his outlook and sometimes ignored his feelings.
Subsequently, I became accustomed to dishing out instructions, treating my kids like loyal subjects rather than valued members of the family and permitting little room for them to express their concerns. More so, I didn’t’ like the idea of my nine-year old disagreeing with me, and even when he tried to explain himself, I’d cut him short because I thought any sign of disapproval meant total defiance.
Soon, the risk of running my home like a cantonment didn’t seem far off, and in trying to get my children to complete tasks or to do as they are told, I’d yell out instructions like “Don’t argue with me!”, “Hurry up and finish what I’ve asked you to do!”. Judging by my son’s body language, my brash way of ordering, correcting and directing was becoming overbearing. I was only trying to get him to finish his chores, but it seemed my approach only succeeded in intimidating him. Whenever I called out his name, he feared he had done something wrong. Was it the tone of my voice, the look on my face or what he had gotten used to?
Eventually, I began to realise that kids also deserve some respect and parenting isn’t about acting superior. If my children were to become fearful of me, they might prefer to seek solace elsewhere, and this would have spelled trouble. So cutting down on the excessive directing enables me become a better mother and not evolving into a dictator. Also, the privilege of birthing, raising and supporting the next generation is a responsibility I wouldn’t want to take lightly, so help me God. Conclusively, I summarised five tips which have proved helpful.
Establishing eye contact
When speaking with my children, I often forgot to establish eye contact. I preferred to continue doing less important things while communicating with them. I underestimated the significance of establishing eye contact as it gradually turned out to be a profound way of connecting with my kids on a deeper level. I could understand how they felt by observing their body language and they could also tell I was equally interested by how I gazed at them.
Validating their efforts
Commendations are also beneficial for even the less meaningful outcomes because what we may deem as ordinary could be a big deal to our kids. Whenever my son scored an average mark in a test, I was quick to disregard his effort and urged him to work harder. By my standard, achieving an average score wasn’t acceptable and therefore, not worthy of receiving good remarks. A few days later, he would show me his results in other tests. It was evident he was trying to win my approval. My son needed me to validate his effort, and whether it was outstanding or not, he still wanted to feel appreciated.
Letting them know their bodies
Again, another aspect which made me think my kids weren’t as capable. Finally, I allowed my son to bathe himself, but occasionally, I’d interfere. I’d knock on the bathroom door and insist on washing his back and behind his ears. The look on his face said it all! I had not only violated his physical privacy but assumed he wasn’t old enough to exercise some degree of independence. He was becoming more aware of his body and wanted to prove he knew what to do with some soap, water, and a sponge. Now, I’m learning to refrain from constantly checking in on him in the bathroom.
Displaying good behaviour is deemed respectful and a reflection of one’s upbringing. So naturally, we would respect our children whenever they display good behaviour. However, I realised striving to act appropriately for my kids is one of the best ways of achieving this. Sometimes, I would ask them to complete chores and wouldn’t feel the need to say ‘please’ or forget to say ‘thank you’ when they’re finished. I felt instructing my children didn’t require the use of etiquette. But I was wrong, modelling good behaviour shows them how to behave and encourages them to treat others the same way.
Having a two-way conversation
Creating a two-way conversation was one of my biggest challenge because I was used to calling the shots. My idea of children being obedient was primarily focused on them receiving instructions rather than understanding why they are asked or told to do things. I didn’t really care to help them understand why they had to clear their plates after eating or make some effort to make their beds.
I would also rush to answer questions, interrupt my older child because I felt he was taking too much time to explain himself. Sometimes, I would even scold him for pulling a long face because I thought he intended disobeying me. Consequently, my son became reluctant to discuss personal things with me because he felt I wouldn’t listen to him and probably disregard his concerns.
Eventually, I understood it wasn’t necessary to blow one’s top off when children wear long faces. Facial expression is an inherent nature and helps decipher their emotion and although some may require reasonable rebuke but a few could be overlooked.
It was clear a one-sided conversation wasn’t helpful as it was putting a strain on our relationship.
Now, my efforts are geared towards building a two-way conversation. A type of communication which helps my children understand that I value their opinion and that they aren’t items on my ‘To-do list’ but priceless individuals.
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