I was having a tea date with my daughter at the Tim Horton’s a couple days ago.
While we were enjoying each other’s company
a mother came in with her two young children.
They were probably four and six years old.
I wasn’t listening to every word they were saying,
but I was keeping track of how they were interacting like I always do.
The kids were going on about
what kind of bagel they wanted
and she kept modifying all of their requests.
The little boy wanted a full raisin bagel.
The mother said he could only have half.
The little girl said she wanted the whole of some other kind of bagel.
The mother said she could only have the other half
of the raisin bagel that her brother was having.
She was trying very hard to be patient,
but I could tell that there was an explosion coming.
Her kids kept arguing
and she kept pressing for what she wanted.
At some point it got too much for her
and she started raising her voice and saying to them
“You’re getting whatever I give you.
Now just stop talking and be quiet or there will be trouble.”
It wasn’t IF she would explode, but WHEN!
As soon as that happened I looked to my kid and told her that
I was just waiting for that to happen.
I didn’t know when it was going to happen,
but I did know it was going to happen.
My Daughter Cannot Relate To The Adversarial Parent/Child Relationship
She just laughed and shook her head.
To her that kind of interaction is some kind of mystery.
She doesn’t understand why parents and kids
have to treat each other that way.
She was never treated that way when as she was growing up
and she never therefore needed to act out the way those kids were either.
Sometimes it’s necessary to say NO
Now to be clear I’m not saying that the mother
necessarily needed to give them both
the exact bagel they wanted.
While saying YES really is my preference
I do understand that there are times when that is not feasible.
There could be any number of reasons,
or perhaps they always waste their bagels
and she doesn’t like to waste food.
She Wasn’t Getting Her Real Point Across To Her Kids
The thing is though the way she was communicating,
or really not communicating,
was not getting those reasons across to them.
Their only experience was of having their
desires and freedom curtailed.
They felt imposed upon and restricted.
They felt like their feelings and impulses
we’re being criticized and even rejected
by the person who is supposed to love them unconditionally.
No Peace for the Kids, No Peace for the Mom
The other problem is that the mother herself
lost her peace as well.
It wasn’t only the kids that ended up not happy
she was also unhappy.
Clearly a new way of interacting with her children
would bring much more effective and beneficial results.
I Would Love To Sit Down And Chat With Her
If I were to be able to sit down with this woman
and chat with her about parenting
I would suggest that she form
a new habit pattern of relating to her kids.
Starting A New Habit Is Always Challenging
because the old constantly tries to impose itself upon us.
It requires consistent attention to behave in a new way.
It also requires significant patience
when trying to alter a relational behaviour pattern
because even if you are successful in changing your behaviour
you still have to wait for the effects to show up in the other person.
Communicate, Explain And Seek Their Opinion
If she were to start explaining her reasons for things to her children
and asking their opinion about how to best work with
both of their desires and values
she would soon find avenues of communication open up to her.
When kids feel like you are respecting their values and needs
equal to their own, they are extremely willing to bend to find a middle ground.
Kids Are More Willing To Cooperate Than We Usually Give Them Credit For
Time and time again I have seen parents surprised
with how willing their children are to meet them halfway
when they show the same willingness on a consistent basis.
The thing is if you already have an adversarial behaviour pattern
it will take some time before that can transform into a cooperative one.
There will be times when her kids will take advantage
of her new, communicative and cooperative mindset.
This is ok.
It Is Okay To Allow Them A Few Experiences Of Taking Advantage
In fact isn’t it natural for them to want to do so?
After being controlled for so long
if suddenly they find a higher level of freedom,
well I think anybody would take advantage of that.
With Loving communication
and intelligent explanation
very soon her kids will see that their mother
really cares for their values
and they will open their hearts to caring for hers as well.
A New Experience of Ordering Bagels
Oh how I wish I could find this woman
and share these ideas with her.
If I could
and if she made the effort into putting them into practice,
it is very likely that the next time this woman walked into a Tim Horton’s,
she and her kids would have a much different experience
in ordering their bagels.