Archive for the 'children' Category

Lately I’ve been coming across a sign that reads, “Drive like your kids live here.” Every time I read it, I cringe. I hate it. It makes me mad. What’s meant to promote consciousness, care and concern is really only encouraging a narrow and selfish way of viewing life.

Every time I see one of those signs I want to go up to it with a spray paint can and put an X over the word “your”…thusly it would read, “drive like kids live here”. For me that is reason enough to slow down, to be a tad more cautious, to think, “thanks for the reminder,” children are scampering about here. That sign would then read to me as, “please have that in mind when passing through-at a reasonable speed with alert eyes”. That’s all I need. I don’t need to envision it as MY child that would be killed or hurt. I would care, no matter whose child was injured by my car. Wouldn’t most of us? Do we really believe in a world that is so callous that the only reason someone would drive slower is because it’s his or her flesh and blood being maimed? God, I should hope not. Yes, we see incidents of it happening all over the world, people are being bombed, killed, shot…and children are involved but how can we hope for a more caring and thoughtful world if we proliferate thinking that only directly affects our personal welfare?
We are being taught to not care about anyone else unless they are directly linked to us-blood first and maybe a neighbor second if it’s not too much of a bother.

In my world, I am open to supporting others who can’t support themselves, I am into teaching others new ways of seeing that’s inclusive rather than self-grandising, I am interested in helping for the sake of care and not self promotion, but more importantly I don’t do it for approval or to be a “good person”. I do what I do because it comes from my personal integrity and if we gave permission to ourselves to trust our own hearts, I doubt we’d ever conceive of a sign that in affect says, “care only because your direct bloodline will be affected”.

A friend of mine, during a phone conversation, was suddenly met with the sound of the dial tone, as his 5- year old son decided he had had enough (of not getting his way). My guess is this was a behavior he observed in others, otherwise how could a 5 year old know that hanging up on someone when frustrated was an option?

The father then called the child back and said, “You shouldn’t hang up on people, that’s not nice”. The child said (the obligatory) sorry and they moved on.

Does that appear to be good parenting skills?  Did dad do the right thing?   What was the focus? Teaching his son good behavior?  Is that a demonstration of love or connection? Do you think the child felt satisfied by their interaction?

Our society seems to have little understanding of how to truly interact with each other in supportive ways. Often, the focus (and I am sorely guilty of this) seems to be more on correcting than connecting (thank you Marshall Rosenberg) advising over allowing. We take great pride in being able to find a place or reason to tell another how they can better themselves, but do very little to acknowledge that who they are and how they feel is completely acceptable and perfectly fine. We are brilliant at guidance but are we equally genius at allowance?

Of course we are unwitting in our ignoring of the emotional need that’s often presenting itself- because it’s often unspoken. We are left to guess and wonder to what it is that our comrade, brother, sister, son or daughter, lover, boss, companion and neighbor are saying when they scream, yell, hang up, walk out or even worse (gasp) curse. We are hardly to know that in fact when they slam down the phone, that was is actually and in reality being said is: HELP ME (feel better).

Instead we tune out the emotional need that fuels the furry and focus on the physical action and tell them, no, no no man. No don’t do that, don’t behave like that and whatever caused you to do that, is in no way necessary to discuss as it might be painful and not comfortable to confront so just shhhh, don’t do that, don’t do that I say. Listen to my words don’t follow my example but live out the fear within the context and privacy of your own heart and mind and do not do not feel in front of me, as it’s not easy for me to feel anything…anymore.  We have become deadened to the hearts and care of others. We accidentally put ourselves first and forget about the other.

Does the father who corrected his son realize that he just sidestepped his sons’ emotions, definitely not. As our main and sometimes only source for parenting education comes via our parents and while many of us aren’t thrilled with our parents style, it’s the only one we know and rarely do we understand just how their style may have failed us. We just know it did. Thus, we repeat the same knee jerk reactive reactions, the same meaningless mantras (because I said so that’s why) and remain trapped in a form of behavior that produces a quick fix, desired result but does it serve? Does it create a satisfying connection to our loved ones? Based on the number of people I have worked with, interacted and shared time with on this planet, I am going to say, no. So many people never really feel heard. So many of us believe ourselves to be invisible. Our needs and loving intentions ignored or worse, misunderstood.

In the child parent interaction just sited, the parent wanted the child to know, “we don’t act that way because it’s not nice”. Why was that the focus? Why wasn’t the child’s emotional expression addressed from the standpoint of the child’s need instead of from the judgment of his action?  Nowhere within our educational culture is there a process that’s taught based on our hearts ability to see and teach.

Therefore the parent really felt he was addressing the situation fully and “correctly”. What really was addressed was the parents belief that he was properly teaching his child about manners and while inadvertently taking care of his feelings about being hung up on (“that’s not nice to hang up on daddy” implies my feelings were hurt by your action, why would you do that to me) while the child’s hurt or frustration (demonstrated by the hanging up) wasn’t addressed.  Never did the father say, why were you so upset? What made you so angry or hurt that made you want to hang up the phone?

This lack of questioning from the child’s perspective teaches him to feel bad for his action and shows that his original hurt that caused his “not nice” reaction is of no importance.

Now the child’s emotional state has been layered with a small feeling of guilt for not being a nice person. Since no child wants to feel bad and wants to be viewed as  “good” he quickly says sorry so he can release feeling bad and everything goes back to normal.

Except for the fact that this child is now sitting with a bit of embarrassment at making a mistake coupled with an unexplainable feeling of being completely overlooked. He doesn’t have the words or skills to tell you this, so you think everything is fine; and by the way, so does the child.

He has buried his feelings. How might that reveal itself in his behavior as he grows up with this continual neglect of his needs? Remember all that over crowding we have in our prisons?  All of those children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD or the unruly child who won’t listen in school? How about the myriad of adults who never seems to grow up emotionally?

What has erroneously been taught by this interaction? Be nice to others or you’re a bad person and your needs….oh well, those don’t matter.

Why did this happen? Because he was addressed with his fathers’ thoughts about what he did instead of concern about how the child felt. The childs feelings never entered the discussion (because the father wasn’t taught or nurtured from this perspective either, poor little one).  Yet, the father felt very reassured within himself that he just taught his boy well because his son felt bad for what he did and said sorry.

Let’s try this scenario with the son feelings being considered too. The father calls back and this time says:

Dad: Wow, you were really upset, so upset you hung up the phone.

Son: uh-huh

Dad: Were you feeling bad because you weren’t getting what you wanted?

Son: uh-huh

Dad: I understand that, I sometimes get upset when I can’t get what I want too.

Son: (silence)

Dad: Do you still feel angry?

Son: No, I’m not angry, I just want that toy.

Dad: I hear that you want that toy. That may be possible, but we have to talk about that later, first I want to talk to you about something else. Okay?

Son: yeah.

Dad has no entered into the possibility of helping his son feel understood rather than only addressing his child’s reaction. If it really feels necessary to give a manners lesson, maybe the talk could continue along the lines below:

Dad: You know I get why you hung up on me, but when you hang up on people, it won’t help you get what you want.

Son: But Billy has the new WII and I want one too!

Dad: I hear ya, but hanging up on me or anyone, doesn’t help get what you want, it may even make things worse. If I didn’t know you so well, I may think you were being mean to me. Luckily, I know you’re a great kid and you’re just angry, but other people might not know you so well and misunderstand why you hung up on them. They’ll think you’re rude.

Son: I’m not rude

Dad: I know that, like I said, you’re a great kid but sometimes other people will misjudge you and that’s okay but I just think you should know not everyone will understand that when you hang up, you’re just upset with not getting your way.

Son: Okay.

This discussion takes longer than most of our current day discussions. We just shortcut everything, we say the bottom line, cut to the chase and bark or say our wanted end results without ever considering how the other person may be feeling. If we were able to take in the other persons’ perspective while considering what it is we truly want in the moment (do I want my child to feel loved by me or to feel wrong?) we may have more connection and understanding in our relationships. I’ve noticed an immediate sense of satisfaction when I approach my discussions from this new viewpoint. I feel heard because I am actually expressing myself more clearly and I feel proud of myself for demonstrating more care for the other person. I often feel uplifted and it’s not because the other person did anything different, but because I did.

As a parent, who has a child in middle school, I find that the favored techniques to gain information from our children to mimic that of a terrorist interrogation.  While I can appreciate the need to gain information, my bewilderment lies within the apparent belief that intimidation and lying are advantageous (and acceptable) when dealing with children.

As far as I can tell, from speaking with my daughter and her peers, when being questioned in the school offices, children are often screamed at, threatened and belittled. I ask you? How do you expect these young children to grow up to become successful self-reliant, self-trusting and healthy adults when their (supposed) role models are acting with less care than prison guards?

I’m curious to know why these children, who are in trouble for possibly being involved with the use of pot and ecstasy are considered villains rather than victims?

Why hasn’t anyone involved offered help and hope over threatening and adding to their already tenuous position in life; one, that ultimately may have been the culprit.  Experimental drug use is a lofty option over feeling lost, deadened or alone, one often glorified by the act of defiance alone. One that screams, “ I need help feeling better about myself” and what do we do? Scream at their hearts and minds more, expressing what vile, little creatures they are for making unwise choices. For shame, for shame!

How many adults can honestly say they’ve never taken a drug or a drink? How many of us have used that drug or drink as a form of escape under the guise of just needing to “unwind”? How many of us were using the same approach to dealing with stress and unhappiness as a child? Why does the ability to understand and empathize disappear when we are clearly being given signals from our children that they are struggling or in pain? Where is our capacity to teach, guide, nurture and love? It seems that when drugs come into the picture judgment immediately replaces caring.

I’ver heard it said, love doesn’t work. Only discipline (which easiy becomes bullying) gets “these kids” to listen, to straighten up, to what? Obey? Since when does obedience create happy individuals? From my personal family history, I’d say, never. It’s created an alcoholic mother, father and grandmother, each of whom were never allowed the freedom to be who they were, but rather were forced to conform to the rules of the house, to be respectful of those (adults) who did not respect them back and therefore lived desperate lives of cellular discordance and confusion. Why is it okay to do to our children what was done to us? Why do we ignore their individuality and treat them like they are criminal for simply trying to maneuver life?

Making children (or anyone for that matter) feel bad about themselves is never a successful approach to getting positive results.  Do you think rehab facilities are verbally beating the participants in order to help them heal? Perhaps it was the compassionless way in which life treated them that led them even further down their paths of despair and into addiction.

I would like to suggest that our educational system maintain a distinction between the board of corrections and the board of education; as it has the greatest influence on our children outside of the home environment and it’s influences will last a lifetime on our children (just as it has with most of us). Some of us were fortunate to be students of teachers who truly cared, but the majority of us were just hustled through like cattle, nameless, faceless and already labeled, “liar, loser, no good or useless”. I want my child to feel significant, not because she is special but because she is human. We each crave acknowledgement, to be seen and valued. We can start that process by choosing new methods of interacting. We have to be brave enough to feel vulnerable and helpless as we learn new ways of communicating. We have to be patient. We have to be willing and desiring of a world that sees the creative, the potential, the heart and humanity within the individual.