Most of us may not realise it; but we are being watched all the time. By our own children.
Everything we say, show and do is being recorded meticulously. They are being replayed and interpreted in unique ways. And then they are replicated.
I realized this early on as a parent and so did my wife. Whether we like it or not we become role models of a kind.
Here is an example. We bought a toy telephone for our grand son. He instinctively knew what to do with it. He picked up the receiver, dialed a dummy number and started speaking.
And I watched in horror. He was mimicking me! On keener observation I found out that his language, choice of words and expressions were what all of us adults were using. Now this is obvious and every one knows this. Yet we tend to forget it.
It would be torturous if we had to be on guard all the time. There had to be a way we could be ourselves, or we shouldn’t mind being mimicked!
There are a couple of guidelines my wife & I thought of early on when we started our lives as parents.
- We will not fight in front of the child, no matter what
- We will not make the child take sides
- We will express disagreements in an agreeable way
- We will listen first
- We will respect each other
This seemed like a wish list and we were not happy. So I asked my wife “How would you like to be treated if you were a kid?”
Pat came the answer “Don’t take me for granted”
It startled both of us as she said it.
“Don’t take the child for granted.”
The more we thought about it, the more we liked it. That changed the way we treated our child then (and treat our grand children now). This changes the equation completely and creates a relationship of affection and respect. And that makes all the difference. When we don’t take the child for granted many things happen.
- We listen to the child, not merely give her instructions and orders.
- We take the trouble to explain, to reason with the child, not merely expect compliance
- We understand that parenthood is merely a descriptor of a status in relation to the child. It is not an automatic entitlement to respect and privileges. We have to earn this.
This is by no means an easy thing to do. We could slip back to old ways and get into trouble. As I look back, it seems like we were playing a snake and ladder game all the time. Not taking the child for granted ensured that were in the game. I like the analogy of the game because it added some fun into it. We could laugh even when the snakes gobbled us and were back to square one.