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Permit me today to bring to you the 6th Commandment of Rights-Based Communication with Children: Show Interest.
Nothing kills a child’s excitement, morale and self-esteem like when custodians do not show interest in matters, which the child considers important. A lot of times our children come to us to discuss with us and we show no expression or interest in what he is discussing with us. Once we do not show interest, we gradually lose them. Therefore when they have matters, which are critical to them, it is registered in their sub-conscious not to talk to us.
The primary source of validation for a child is the primary care givers, the parents. The parents are to carefully pass the baton to the secondary care giver. Once our children do not get the validation from us, they must look for it elsewhere. In most cases they look for it in the wrong places, where it does not exist. The tragedy is that they look for it at great cost to their dignity of human person and yet they do not get it. Have you ever experienced paying so much for a fake?
Please note that to children, love simply means acceptance and attention. How do we demonstrate acceptance and attention? Primarily, beyond what we say, it is by what we do. How much interest do we show when our children decides to speak with us. How do we show disinterest? Let me discuss two or three ways:
One of the ways parents show disinterest is to talk down on what a child is so excited about. Now, parents may not be excited about what their children are excited about for many reasons, particularly if it does not agree with the values they hold dear or the knowledge they have about the child. But they may need some playing along in terms affirmation and encouragement, before we express their opinion may be important. For example, a child, whose parents believe to be an art student by their observation and understanding of his natural flair tells the parents, he wants to be in the science class. The parents try to help him see otherwise, but the more they try, the more the child persuades them. So they cut a deal with him to go to the science class but if after one year in the class he does not do well, he would go the art class. Gladly, he accepts the deal and the parents give him all the support. One day the mother returns home after their third term examination and finds the child coping his art subjects’ notes. The mother asks why, the child says, he accepts he is not cut out for the science class. The mother tries to ask if he still needs more support from her and his father to remain in the science, the child says ‘no’ and genuinely thanks the parents for their demonstrated commitment.
Another way we show disinterest is that we simply ignore the child. A lot of times when we ignore the child we always find excuses like, ‘I am tired,’ ‘this child talks too much,’ ‘I am busy with something else like watching my favourite program.’ In most cases, we begin with ignoring the child and if the child does not keep quiet, insisting in his own way to be heard, we yell and send the child out of our presence. I understand that as parents, we are human, we may be tired, we may have other things on our mind, we may not be ready for the child’s discussion, but ignoring him will never be an answer, pleasing to his spirit, body and soul. We may quickly respond to them, explain to them why we could not listen to them immediately and schedule a time for the discussion. Again, depending on the importance of the topic of discussion being raised by the child, we may want to suspend every other thing and listen to the child there and then.
One other way we show disinterest is not to keep our scheduled discussion with our children. Like I advocate above, your child comes to you with a matter and you are on your way out and you tell her you would discuss it when you return. You return and she reminds you and you reschedule it again. By the time you reschedule the discussion, either serious or otherwise two to three times the child gives up. When she gives up, she either bottles things up or she seeks help from another source. In most cases, she turns to her friends, who mislead her. Consider the case of 13 year old girl, who begin her monthly menstrual circle and immediately seeks audience with her mother. Her mother tells her she is in a hurry to attend a function and promises to discuss same when she returns. At dinner, the girl waits for the mother to raise the issue. When the mother would not raise the issue, the girl does and instead of responding to the issue, so important to the child, the mother laughs it off to the embarrassment of the child. She makes up her mind not to discuss her matter with her mother and turns to her friends. Of course, her friend misleads her, telling her that beginning her menstrual circle means she is ready for sexual intercourse. She believes and goes to town with her body and contacts STIs. She tells her story at the age of 16 with so much regrets and pains that she is let down by her mother.
I think if we reschedule a discussion with our child, it is our responsibility to bring it up as at the scheduled time. It is even safer for his protection for us to bring it up because between when he first attempts to speak with us and the rescheduled time, he may contact new knowledge or distracted by another school of thought, which will make him unwilling to discuss with us again.
Please show interest in what your children are interested in, even if it is to understand it enough to dissuade them from it. Many of us have lost our children today, yet they still live with us; we are completely cut-off from our children. We do not know the friend they keep, the slang they speak, the music they listen to, the food they eat, the things they drink, the role models they adore, the fashion to crave, the beliefs they hold and so on. That is why their actions shock us in most cases. They have simply become familiar strangers. This ought not to be so. Our children speak more than we listen both through actions and words, it is time to show interest and help them.
I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE.
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