I’ve never really understood a world that treats children with less respect and dignity then their adult counterparts. It’s never quite made sense in my brain. And for the most part I am grateful for this as it has allowed me access in to the magical world of children over and over again.
I want to pull this back to my most favorite bumper sticker that I purchased from Kelly Lovejoy. It read “world peace begins at home be nicer to your kids.” Ironically it was stolen off my car and I have to believe it was because someone needed it so badly they took it as a reminder to make the world a better place. There is so much truth in that one sentence. Children who are loved up fully don’t go out in to the world looking to hurt other people. Children who are treated with respect, don’t go about disrespecting others. This idea that a child needs to be trained up right is lost on me. The idea that raising a well adjusted, thoughtful human being can only be done through restrictions, deprivation and punishment, is illogical.
I am going to use some examples here to hammer my point home. If my adult friend turns to me in tears, with heart break all over her face, because something that to her is terrible has just happened, I hug her and I listen with my full heart. Because that is what I would want for myself in the very same moment. This is the principle I also apply to my child. I don’t ask my friend to make sure her reaction happens at an appropriate moment or that she make sure it is an issue I agree holds the merit required for such an out burst. And I most certainly don’t ask her to go stand in the corner for two minutes until she can calm down. Why then would I expect this of a child who has less experience in the world? Knowing my child is newer to the idea of working through big feelings it is logical that I would apply an extra dose of compassion and patience, to support them in being able to apply the very same thing to themselves and others moving forward. Compassion, empathy, respect are things one can only fully understand through witnessing and experiencing them. They are not something that can be taught through lectures and punishment.
Another big idea that this world of adults often works to put upon children is the idea of holding their needs. That some how there is a great value in being able to hold ones needs for long periods of time. I think another term for this is delay of gratification. The idea is that making a child wait to express or have their needs met will set them up well for the real world, where this is what happens. My gut response to this overall idea is, why would one choose this as a way to prepare the child for their future? Hey guess what life is gonna suck when you grow up cause you are always going to have to wait to be gratified. Dismal! Who wants to excitedly grow up in to that world? And it is in direct contradiction to what many children will witness. I am going to use my loving husband as an example in this situation. I remember one time when he was frustrated that one of our boys desperately needed a new toy. In a way that he just could not imagine it was possible to wait for the time we imposed on him (it is worth mentioning that what he wanted would not break the bank at all). I said to my husband “but when you want something you just go out and buy it,” (sometimes even when it breaks the bank), “why should he have to wait?” Bless my husband that he is the man he is, cause he took a moment and realized, just how right I was. It just doesn’t make sense to me to expect children, who again are much newer at being in the world, to do things we don’t expect of ourselves. If I am driving on a long road trip and I really really really have to pee, I pull over at the next rest stop. So why would I say to my child “you’re gonna have to hold it it’s not time to stop yet.” Children who continually have support in meeting their needs, know they can meet their own needs and with in that comes a patience and understanding that can never be born out of deprivation.
There is also this way, where some folks raising a child think that you can raise a good listener by making a child be quiet and listen to you. I am going to invite my imaginary friend back in to the conversation. When I am out in the world as a grown up looking for new connections and I bump in to someone who wants to talk at me all day long, we won’t be staying friends. This I am sure of. In fact, I am more likely to befriend the person who is willing to toss a conversation respectfully back and forth with me in to my circle of friends. So in my brain if I want to raise up a human being who is good a listening to others I need to be the one to sit down and shut my mouth. To listen, with my full attention to what my child has to say, so they feel heard. The gift of listening, is something I can freely give to my children so they have the reserves to give it to others.
And for my last example I am going talk about ditching any conditions on the one thing we ALL have tons of extra to go around, LOVE. Love is free. It is in fact one of the truly free things in this world we live in. It never needs to be earned. Nope it is always right there for the giving. So it should make sense that we give it in spades to our children. No matter how messy, snotty, loud, dirty they may be. Or how many times they interrupt, erupt, melt down or cry. In fact I might go as far as to say, the dirtier, louder, messier the more love they need. People who are all filled up on love, know they have extra to give away. They go out in to the world whole, with their needs met, looking to connect with others, in healthy ways. This is the foundation of the statement “world peace begins at home be nicer to your kids.” If we are raising children from a place of respect and unconditional love we are sending whole, complete adults out in to the world. Children who are shown respect from the beginning of their lives know they are worthy of respect and seek it out in others. Children who are given buckets full of compassion and empathy have it to give to those who need it the most. Children who know how to meet their own needs will do so over and over again, in the time line that resonates with them and without infringing on others to do so. Children who are listened to, will know how to listen, with their full attention. And children who are raised on unconditional love, will make our world a more peaceful place. I promise.