In a culture where the emphasis, focus, and admiration is on the children, is it any wonder why we see a lot of self absorption from that same human being when they grow up? This isn’t meant to be a blanket statement claiming that all children are this way. It simply points out the fact that IF the world has revolved around someone from the time they are born, continuing all throughout their years of growing up, then it would seem absolutely normal for that person to always think of themselves first.
When I was young, I was not anyone’s little darling. There was no focus pointed directly at me. If anything, I was simply happy and felt fortunate to be part of a clan. In those days, the focus was NOT on the children. The children were taught to respect their elders. We were taught to be courteous and helpful to the adults in our lives where the reward for our efforts were often just simply and quietly acknowledged with small verbal comments…..
“You did a good job today, little one!”
“You have such nice manners, young lady”.
“No one works harder than you do when you put your mind to it.”
“You are such a good boy”.
These praises were hard earned and consequently cherished. Life was mostly about our ACTIONS versus our EXISTENCE. Praise was never given unless you earned it.
In a room where there were not enough chairs for everyone, it was understood that the elder got the chair, while the child, being wiry and flexible, could sit on the floor if necessary. If the table did not accommodate everyone, then another table was set and deemed “the children’s table”. The children didn’t mind it at all because they sat with their contemporaries, but as they did so, they had their eye on the “adult table” happily knowing that someday, they would graduate to that table. It was something to look forward to…when they grew up and became an adult.
in my youth, as children, we understood that our life was about living within a hierarchy where pleasing the adults often merited rewards. The reward may only be a smile and a word of praise for something we had done well. While parents were never pleased to hear about bad behavior on the part of their children, they generally thanked the messenger and said that the situation would be dealt with. They knew that other people saw their children in a way they may not see them, so these opportunities were used as a teaching tool. The children learned quickly that the adults were all on the same “side”, teaching morals and principals to the children. What we learned from this as children, we could use ourselves one day to teach our own children.
These days, and in this culture, all too often the trend has been quickly gravitating towards pleasing the children. An observation of a child’s bad behavior being transmitted to the child’s parent may not be accepted well because they may feel offended and defensive, which is a lost opportunity for a growth in character of a child.
There is nothing that pleases me more than seeing a parent look at the reality of who their child is. No child is perfect, even if the parent would like to think so. If a child had been created to be perfect, God would not have included parents in their life as guides and teachers. All parents should love their child but in a way where that child understands that they are a small part of a universe, not THE universe.
Recently, I had the opportunity of having a parent come to my door with his son to offer an apology for the son having trampled through my garden while playing ball. I hadn’t been aware any damage was done until they stood there and told me about it. We went to have a look and they were right….it was pretty badly trampled. The boy AND his father were so remorseful, it was a pleasure for me to be able to say,
“Don’t worry about it….it will all grow back. However, what your father has done here is most impressive. He wants you to learn to respect other people and their property and wants you to take responsibility for what you have done.”
The boy looked in surprise at his father, and then the father said, “what can my son do to help rectify the damage?”.
I said, “Well, maybe he can help me clean up the broken plants, so he can see what all this trampling did….”.
The father agreed, and the boy came to help me clean up the area. It took a while, but it really opened this boys eyes to the damage running and trampling can cause, even if he wasn’t aware of it at the time. His father did not say “he didn’t mean to do it”. The father said, “this is what happened and he is here to try make amends”. He was telling it like it was! As a result of his honesty, he earned a heaping helping of MY respect in the process.
What impressed me about this father-son lesson was that this lesson could have been missed entirely. The father could have seen what happened and just ignored it. I wouldn’t have know what happened when I finally came upon it. it was unintended damage as the result of child’s play, but you can bet that when the son is out playing ball next time, he will have a brand new consciousness and respect for other peoples property. The father did his son a favor.
Telling it like it is…..I wish more parents would be so brave as to know that it is in the child’s imperfect behavior where the best lessons are learned!