One of my favorite times of the day is dinner time. It has nothing to do with the food, especially when I am the cook, and it has everything to do with my usual dining companions-my two daughters. Even during the most hectic of times, sitting down together at the kitchen table for dinner is more than a tradition, it is sacred family time that I fiercely protect. The reason I guard it so closely is that it is during these times that we share the occurrences of our respective days, dream aloud, laugh hysterically, and just enjoy being in one another’s presence, and I refuse to let anything interfere with that if at all possible.
Some evenings, we cover a variety of topics, and I find myself inspired by something that is shared among the three of us. Tonight, the subject of what makes someone a good parent came up, and what follows are my daughters’ top five suggestions that parents and other adults can do every day to be kind to a child:
1. Tell them that you love them.
Do not assume that a child, or anyone else for that matter, knows that you love them. Actions may speak louder than words, but those three words are so important to say and to hear. So, say it often, and then, show them that you love them in big and small ways.
2. Don’t get mad at them for silly stuff.
Patience may not be a virtue, but for a parent or anyone who cares for a child, it is crucial. Too often, we expect children to be more mature and advanced than they are and then get frustrated with them for not performing skills or thinking at a much higher level than is age appropriate. Sometimes, we allow a child’s simple mistake to be the trigger for a flood of angry words and/or gestures, because we think that it will not impact child, but it can. Children are resilient, but they are not immune to harsh words and actions of adults. Choose your battles wisely, and when you engage in a battle, be careful what words and actions you employ as weapons. Children are not here to make our lives or jobs easier; they are here to learn and grow. Making mistakes is part of that learning process. So, losing your temper says more about you than it does about them. Remember that.
3. Don’t put pressure on them.
We all want to see a child thrive and succeed, but at what cost?! Sometimes, a child performs up to the best of their abilities, yet it still is not enough to make the team, gain entrance into a coveted school, win a contest, etc. Other times, what you want for them is not what they want for themselves. Learn the difference between encouraging and pressuring, and work on being as objective and honest as you possibly can about your child’s capabilities, talents, and interests. Pressure may motivate some people, but it also may make a child crumble under the weight of it.
4. Let them know you’re there for them.
Even when they feign disinterest in you or act like they don’t need you, children need to know that you are in their corner. Keep asking them questions. Invite them to chat with you or engage in an activity or project with you. Be a visible and positive presence in their life.
5. Listen to them.
Put your cell phone down. Unplug your earphones. Turn off the TV. Power down your laptop. Make eye contact when they speak to you. Be attentive and present. Active listening sadly has become a lost art in today’ technological world, but it is not too late to listen to children, starting right now.
This is definitely food for thought. Just one thing each day . . .