Children are their own beings. They have thoughts, emotions, desires – same as anyone. And when you value those unique traits you teach your child to value themselves. They leave your home understanding that even the small and weak deserve their voice to be heard.
This is the imperfectly perfect way we do it in our home:
I do NOT advocate blind obedience – it shuts down a person’s ability to think critically and make decisions from a moral place as opposed to listening to whomever they view as the authority. However, as a parent of young children, at times I really just want them to “listen.”
“You are not listening to me.”
I said it kindly, but I did not hide my frustration. I almost said it under my voice, more talking to myself than my son.
He stopped, looked at me – right at me. I repeated my request. He said “okay” and just like that, I learned a trigger phrase to get my son to pause and hear my desire. Those words do not mean he has become a mindless drone following orders – far from it – he’s 3. BUT he understands that I need him to comply at times and that phrase lets him know that THIS is one of those times.
BUT IT GETS BETTER.
As I sit working on my computer, I tune out the noise of 2 toddlers playing, bickering lightly, and sometimes asking. But you know what cut through like a knife? A tiny voice saying:
“Mommy, you’re not listening to me.”
The look on his face was a little frustrated and a little sad. He was testing the words – do they really work – do they matter like I say they do?
I closed my laptop, got on the ground in front of him, placed my hands on his shoulders and said “You’re right. I wasn’t listening. I’m sorry. I am now. Tell me again. I’m listening.”
And just like that, we had our own magic words. We both had the power to snap the other person out of the drone of day-to-day life. We both understood when the other really needed to be heard. And it’s been wonderful for us.
The downside – trying to explain that his 2-year-old friends do not have to “listen to him” and he is not their boss just because he says the words. hahaha. When mommy can’t oblige I can explain why. His friends just look at him like he’s nuts or ignore him and that makes him sad. But we’re working on it!