Commandment 15 of Rights-Based Communication with Children: Do not pay attention to everything you hear your child do or say

Life itself operates by the principle of win-some and lose-some. An attempt to win all at all times or to have one’s way at all times will lead to highhandedness and being unnecessarily overbearing. When a person becomes highhanded, he represses others and repels them, therefore he cannot inspire them. When a person becomes overbearing, he chokes people and waters down to a point of no value his impact.

As custodians, we cannot afford to be highhanded, neither can we be overbearing. We must give our children breathing space. If we correct them on something today, we should give them room and time to imbibe the lessons and practice the principles before we pounce on them again. When we become overbearing, either as a primary or secondary caregivers, we make life unbearable for our children. They feel they are under siege and slavery and they seek nothing but the day of emancipation.

Many year ago, I read the following in the Holy Writ and it has been very fresh and instructive since then:  ‘Do not pay attention to every word people say,   or you may hear your servant cursing you; for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.’ This is very a humbling truth. Here, I understand that to pay attention to everything our servant say is to commission a search party for what is not missing. And if we see what is not missing, we will find what we did not bargain for. The truth is, we also are not perfect. Why then do we seek perfection from our servants?

In our communication with children, we should pay attention to important issues and ignore unimportant issues. We should learn to wait if the issue is important but it is not urgent. If it appears urgent but not important we should ignore such.

It is our duty to teach our children life skills and principles and admonish them, but when our admonition is too frequent and does not overlook anything, it becomes a burden to our children. I think when it comes to communication with our children, particularly when it comes to correcting them, we should tread carefully and let our feet be rarely found in the domain of correction and chastisement.

I am able to relate to this because of my own childhood experiences. My parents new overlooked any matter. Every matter must be discussed and I must have an answer for every situation and every question. One of the commonest prayers I prayed as a child was for my parents to forget my wrongs. I learnt all kinds of superstitious ways from fellow children on how to get my parents to forget my wrongs. I would remove a strand of hair from my eyebrow and put it on my forehead. I would cross my fingers. Fellow children told me these things worked. Sometimes, they appeared to work, maybe because as troubled children, we had so much faith in them. In most cases, they seemed not to work or even aggravate the situation, but that did not stop us from such senseless practices. We must by reason of survival resort to something since our parents we committed to remembering, discussing and punishing all our wrongs.

The issue again was that our teachers in school were also like that. Therefore it was a case of siege on all sides. This kind of siege has terrible impact on the mind of the child. It introduces fear and paranoia. The child becomes psychologically pressured and has no room be give expression to childhood traits, which are critical to his well-being and development as a person. He does not only begin to lie, he begins to perfect how to lie. He finds not rest in his mind, in his homes and in his school. This is very sad. He thinks all day and all night about his wrongs and the constant bashing of his custodians. He loses himself and his mind. He simply becomes a troubled child, who has learnt to reach into his small mind to fashion his own defence mechanism to the whiles of overbearing adults.

I see many adults today, who cannot have meaningful discussions. They are always on their toes. Once anyone says anything that is not pleasant or they perceive not to be pleasant, they do not seek to understand the person, the next thing they want to do is to defend themselves immediately. This happens between them and their spouses, between them and their colleagues and even between then and their own children. When I see people behave this way, I am interested in their background.

I am able to relate with this because that was the kind of adult I became. I have learnt from childhood to defend myself always and I have erected a defence mechanism in my mind. Thus anytime anything was being said that I perceived not to be in my favour, the mechanism rises inside of me, defies every of my reasoning faculty and blindly goes into the murky fray of self defence. It has taken the grace of God to help me today. The truth is that in this matter, like many other matters of my childhood abuse, I am not where I used to be but I am not where I believe God wants me to be yet. Therefore, I just keep praising Him for what He has done and keep working with Him for total restoration, which has become a lifetime affair. But do you know the most painful truth; I could have been spared of this deficiency if my parents and teachers were not overbearing. They painted mistakes as irredeemable errors worthy of nothing but international and unforgivable embarrassment. Please note that I use the word, ‘deficiency’ carefully because a man or woman, who cannot listen to other because what they are saying appear unpleasant to him/her will not learn from his/her mistakes and therefore will not move to maturity in life and will also be more pain than good to his/her relationships. Those in relationships with such people are in what is called, ‘high maintenance relationships’ in which only few stay on.

I charge custodians today to take it easy with children and give them breathing space. Give them the room to develop their own perspective. Do not spoon feed them. Show them options and allow them make their choices. Watch them make their own mistakes as they learn to make their own choices. Please note that we can only guide children, we cannot teleguide. To guide them is to show them options and to teleguide them is to steal their thinking faculty and turn them into robots, who only respond to our promptings and lead another life when they are outside the coverage of our influence.

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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