Have you ever found yourself staring aghast at your child, the words she just spoke swirling in your head like a tornado of penetrating glass shards? What she said was so demeaning, disrespectful, mean … and worst of all, true.
It's not easy or welcome to take criticism from a child (no matter what her age). We naturally get our defenses up. We take it personally. How could she even think about correcting my behavior? Who's the adult here? You're five; I'm thirty-five! Who's smarter?
I hate to break it to you, fellow moms and dads, but even parents are wont to throw a temper tantrum now and then. We may not want to admit it, but there's no denying reality.
My daughter has a terrible habit of correcting behavior. My poor son has two moms now. I'm sure she learned it from me. She's only mimicking what she has seen already, and as quick as I am to point out where she needs correction, she is doubly quick to point out when I'm not doing my job as a mom.
Yes, sometimes it's totally inappropriate and rude. No, I do not have to always listen to you first. No, I do not have to buy you the Toasted Sugar Bombs cereal. No, no, no. I'm not talking about being a doormat for your kids. You have life experience, wisdom, and understanding that they don't; you can and should use those tools. But there are other times when a child's words ring so true, we really have to pause a moment to humbly consider them.
Gulping down my pride, I'll take a breath and tell my little girl that, yes, you're right, I haven't held you enough lately. You're right, listening to you play your violin is more important than straightening up the living room. You're right, what you have to say about your day should be more interesting to me than my friends' status updates on Facebook.
Acknowledging the blossoming wisdom in her young mind shows that I respect her thought process. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. My little kids have opinions too, and they need to know that those opinions matter—whether it is which park is better or if I have spoken kindly to them or not. If I take time to listen and contemplate their words, I'm giving them an example of what it means to respectfully listen to another person. Who knows, maybe they'll end up listening to me too.
Teach your kids to listen by first listening to them. Physically get down to their level. Meet their eyes when they speak. Listen to the little things. Let them choose, and value their opinions. Why? Because one day, when they want to talk to you about the big things, they'll know that you will be there to hear them.
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom" (Proverbs 11:2).
Catiana Nak Kheiyn is the webmaster and editor of 412teens.org and regularly teaches other young writers through tutoring and workshops. When she is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her family—a mountain man, two adorable children, and three socially awkward cats. She approaches parenting as an everyday adventure, albeit an often bewildering one, as the little ones in her life are in a constant state of flux.
Photo by Darrell J. Rohl.