“Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out. Whatever influence I ever had over mamma, I lost at the age of three.”
– Oscar Wilde in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’
Time and again, we talk about how we can be better parents. We talk about values we need to pass on to our children, good habits that we can cultivate in them, and disciplinary measures that we can practice when our children go astray.
We expound on how to get them to listen to our wisdom.
But hardly anyone ever talks about the importance of listening to our children when they criticize us.
Yes, you heard right. There’s very little discussion on this subject and if it does come up, most parents brush it off as being unimportant. As one parent told me “We don’t need to take advice from our kids. They’ve not lived the life we have.”
Perhaps this is one of the reasons we should listen to them; because their perspective is unclouded, and in many cases painfully truthful.
It’s high time we parents ‘heard’ what our children are saying about us, to ‘us.’ Oscar Wilde was right.
Recently, our family was on a vacation together. I was getting exasperated with my husband over things not going quite as smoothly as I had hoped.
My daughter, a young adult, took me aside and said rather curtly – “Mom, can you please ease up on Dad? He’s doing the best he can to make this a great holiday for all of us. So what if he forgot a few details? It’s not the big deal you’re making it out to be.”
I immediately bristled and gave her a couple of pointers on how the world would be a better place if we were all a bit more organized. She just walked away, exasperated.
Later, when the fog of self-righteous indignation cleared, I thought about it and realized how right she was.
I had been nagging hubby dear since morning and his unfazed demeanor was only making me madder. I swallowed my pride and decided to take her advice. As the blame game eased, it was as if the trouble in paradise never happened.
As parents, immersed in the art of parenting, we will realize soon enough, that it’s not just teenagers or young adults who shoot critical arrows in our direction. We will also hear bitter home truths (call it blanketed advice if you will) from children as little as five.
Simple unabashed remarks that force us to hold a mirror to our thoughts and make us realize, what’s reflected back at us isn’t very pretty.
“Mommy, you’re being mean to Teddy.” Teddy could be your toddler’s toy bear (inanimate right?) or a pet turtle. The onus is on ‘mean.’
Or “Why are you yelling on the phone, Mommy?” Again the onus is on ‘mean’ even if the word is not being used.
Usually, these outspoken toddlers transform into the advising young adults.
Scientists who conducted a study at the University of Illinois concluded that toddlers aged between 19 and 21 months understand the concept of fairness and can apply it in different situations. Psychologist Stephanie Sloane, who led the study said ‘We think children are born with a skeleton of general expectations about fairness and these principles and concepts get shaped in different ways depending on the culture and the environment they’re brought up in.”