Respect vs. Understanding
I have rarely had a problem being transparent. I think that I’ve done pretty well throughout my life admitting failures and weaknesses. I typically don’t mind discussing my shortcomings and needs with others who have similar goals and can think through difficulties with me. And then I became a parent…
It is tough to admit personal struggles in parenting. It’s easy to admit my child’s problems, but much more difficult to confess that I cause many of those problems. It’s not easy to admit that I’m an imperfect father. In fact, I generally mess up with my children daily. I lose my temper, I expect too much, I expect too little, I belittle their work, I misplace value in their accomplishments, I fail to punish poor behavior, I fail to reward good behavior, I don’t admit to my children when I make a mistake…and the list goes on.
Most of my parenting mistakes are caused by a failure to balance two ideas:
I must treat my children with respect…BUT…I must understand they are still children.
When I fail to respect them I fail to recognize their individual personalities. I stop caring about their opinions, desires, and wants as I view them only as responsibilities. I forget that they have ideas and that what they are saying is important to them. I belittle their activities, experiences, and discoveries as childish or mundane. I tend to think of them as “in the way” or as a part of a job that I have been given.
When I forget they are children I start expecting a level of maturity and competency of which they are incapable. I get angry when they make simple mistakes and I speak to them harshly when they struggle with simple tasks. I expect them to know the proper way to behave in every situation and abandon their child-like imaginations when “important” things are happening. I choose not to understand their confusion about new experiences or inability to comprehend other’s actions. I expect them to anticipate adult behaviors and understand complicated processes.
Both of those problems sound really easy to manage in isolation. They are much more difficult to manage when they both must be approached simultaneously. The problem is that I tend to wildly swing the pendulum between those two ideas:
- People I respect don’t make childish mistakes, so when I’m showing proper respect I forget they are children.
- It’s very hard for me to show respect to someone when I am allowing for immaturity in every action.
Here’s the transparency- I DON’T HAVE THE ANSWER!!! I have some ideas and some things that I am trying to focus on to help me to find the right balance. Here’s what I’m trying to remember each day as I face the task of finding balance in my parenting:
- A child’s value is not based in his accomplishments. He was made in the image of His Creator and that should be enough reason to respect him.
- Immaturity is what makes childhood fascinating. It sparks imagination and learning.
- Kids experience stress too. Their problems are huge to them.
- Undivided attention is a great way to show respect.
What about you? How do you show respect to children while still allowing for them to be children?