One Sunday afternoon, Mark, Joshua and I were lazing in their room watching a television show about a troubled family. The parents were helpless that their children seem to never tire of getting into each other’s throat. I told the kids how sad I felt since the parents are not able to control the situation.
Mark then remarked, “But you know, ma, maybe the parents are partly to blame. They might have raised their kids with the wrong values. Either that or maybe they never knew what kinds of people their kids hang out with.”
At that point I was reminded that not only are children impressionable. They too, through free will, form judgments about us—as people, as parents.
I took a deep breath and followed through with this question: “So Mark, if that is what you think of their parents (pointing to the TV), can you honestly tell me what you think of me as a parent?”
He hesitated for a while, and then asked why I needed to know.
“Well, I can’t guess exactly what it is unless you tell me straight. Then maybe we can talk about it.”
“Okay mom, let me think… There are three things I can say to describe you. First, you never nag us. Second, you don’t hurt us. Third, the reason we call you ‘crazy mom’? You laugh with us!”
“But is there anything in our relationship you want us to talk about?” I asked again. “Were there times that you wish I hadn’t acted toward you and Joshua in a certain way? I’m sure there were those times.”
Then putting his arm on my shoulder, Mark replied, “Mom, we know you’re tired doing everything here in the house and for us, but there are times when it seems you’re not listening to us.”
I looked at him and wanted to answer in a defensive and cold way. How can he think that I don’t give them a chance to talk, or even listen to them when I’m with them every day? But before I allowed my mind to rattle on with assumptions, I held them for a moment. I knew that if I had said all those, I will regret saying them after. So I started looking at it from Mark’s perspective and I understood.
“Mark, you’re right. I apologize for making you think I don’t listen enough to what you have to say. Perhaps sometimes, there are a lot of things on my mind and problems to solve, that when another concern comes up, I really get overwhelmed. Next time it happens again, I will definitely remind myself of what you have told me. Thank you for letting me know. Is there anything else?”
He answered, “That’s it. Thank you, mom.” After that I felt a big load was lifted from my heart. It taught me much more about humility toward my children and a deeper sense of respect for them. In the end, how we are as parents to them might eventually be how they are to their own children when once they are parents, too.
I know it is not easy to assure, all the more promise, that we will better our behavior toward our kids, just as real active listening is hard to accomplish. But doing so is one way to motivate us toward fulfilling a healthier outcome, pushing ourselves to achieve what would be most rewarding for a parent-child relationship. After all, raising our voices is not necessarily directly proportional to their level of listening.
I guess except probably for unavoidable situations, there is no such thing as making up for lost time or offsetting quality time with our children. But even under these circumstances, we should comprehensibly tell them why we are unable to fulfill certain obligations, from attending a parent-teacher meeting to not being able to purchase their school needs on time. If we fail to let them understand, they might feel a gradually increasing neglect or the idea of being unloved.
Real active listening does not only involve listening per se. It can help if we’re also aware of our tone of voice and body gestures while we are in conversing with them. And in all other days, even if you’re busy with housework, don’t hesitate to leave what you’re doing for a while, go to them, ask them how they are, pat their shoulder, give a quick hug, or simply let them know you’re just nearby. It doesn’t cost a thing and it’s unquestionably not a waste of time.
Some may find it difficult to ask their children what they think them as parents. I was scared to ask, but had the chance to and knew that I just had to know. I wanted to learn. I saw it as a door to be opened. Keeping it closed won’t make us see what’s on the other side.
We cannot always assume how or what our children think. Know that our children want us to be happy too. They may not dare say any form of criticism about their parents and some would. However your child’s answer or indirect response will say a lot about the bond that you have at present.
Done at the right time and place, asking for their opinions make our children feel that they do count.
We need to open our eyes with this truth: In as much as we tend to judge others, including our children; believe it or not, they too, are keeping tabs on us. We want to establish ourselves as our children’s role models. If they are not satisfied with what they are seeing, hearing and feeling, they might start looking for it somewhere else. And if that happens, it would eventually be harder for us to recover what was lost.
Author Dorothy Nolt once wrote that “If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive. If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy. If a child lives with encouragement he learns to be confident. If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him.”
What is your child living in?
There is no perfect parent-child relationship. It is an ideal, but not impossible; especially if we commit to continually pursue it.
The author is a personal development speaker and conducts seminars for image enhancement, behavior management, employee motivation and human empowerment. She is also an instructor at the School of Fashion and the Arts. E-mail her at [email protected]