My son is changing his flat tire on the side of a long, desolate road in the middle of a rainy night. He’s 25 and he seems to know what he’s doing. But, I’m not there for him. In fact, I’m oblivious to his fate and getting ready for bed a few thousand miles away.
This is a recurring dream that renders me helpless most days. But this dream also makes me want to learn their changing style of communication with us as they grow each day. It pushes me harder to teach them how to navigate this beautiful life of theirs. After all, I won’t be there for them forever.
Children form the largest and most powerless minority in the world. Yet, these children are the ones whose future will sustain our planet. Their lives seem to be surrounded by rules, expectations and obligations that are designed to impress adults who raise AND don’t raise them.
So, can we make an effort to understand them?
What children assume
They start out their lives with an unconditional positive regard for everyone around them. They assume that we’re doing our best at any given time. Otherwise they would’ve asked us, “Mom and dad, I don’t feel loved enough, can you love me more?”
What children wish parents knew
Not being invited to sit with friends at lunch, or not being invited to a birthday party is a big deal to them. When others are having mad fun without them, the feeling of ostracisation is misery to them.
Even though it doesn’t seem like it and they don’t seem to not care, they’re always trying to measure themselves upto you. They value themselves depending on how they think we view them and their abilities. They feel the pressure to excel, and to be accepted both by you and their peers.
There’s one thing that they don’t need to be nudged on. That thing that they’re good at, enjoying doing and have a natural aptitude for. They want you to pick up on that and encourage them in that direction.
What children fear
High and unrealistic expectations create terror and not comfort in children. When they fail to meet our high expectations, they not only feel like they’ve disappointed us, but they’ve let themselves down in the process.
They fear being invisible to their loved ones. They fear being rejected. They fear tears of shame and disappointment from you.
And to compensate, they’ll rebel outrageously or work themselves to massive burn out. Both scenarios are not sustainable and can be dangerous for their self worth.
Why children rebel
When caregivers don’t live by the rules they preach, children start questioning the validity of everything.
- They don’t want to be told No, before being explained why something might not be the best choice for them.
- Pushing too hard will be met with push back.
What children don’t understand
- What more important things could be happening on your phone when they’re around.
- How you can be so busy that you can’t read them a 2 page story at the end of the night.
- If you’re not changing their lives, what else are you doing?
What children crave
- They crave human connection in the form of bodily contact.
- They crave arms that hug to show care and love.
- They crave a consistent, predictable and responsive care giver.
- They crave for our presence just like how we crave for theirs, except they do it without judgment.
- They want their lives to be seen in the context of a meaningful relationship.
How children thrive
When children find themselves the center of attention of their parents or their caregivers, it lifts their sense of self immensely. They want to know they matter.
- They want to feel the weight of your arms around them and the scent of your presence in their surroundings.
- They develop their courage if they know you’re always watching them from the sidelines.
- Simply sharing a joke with them when they’ve your complete attention can mean the world to them.
- They thrive when you empower them to believe in themselves and encourage them to realize their highest potential.
“The recipe for fun is pretty simple when raising boys: Add to any activity an element of danger, stir in a little exploration, add a dash of destruction, and you’ve got yourself a winner.” – In Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.
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