Treat Kids Like New Employees
Imagine you just started working at a new job, a restaurant. This is your first time working in this setting. You have lots of questions. You are learning at the speed of light, trying to understand your new environment and how to succeed.
Soon you make a careless mistake. You forget to fill the ketchup bottles, and suddenly 3 tables need ketchup. Now imagine that your supervisor, pulls you aside, a look of disdain plastered on his face. His eyes seem to be saying "you worthless piece of .... How could you do that? Are you stupid?" You don't really remember his actual words; only the feeling, and the look in his eyes. The message that you can't do anything right.
Close your eyes and imagine how you would feel in that moment? Being treated, and talked to like you're stupid?
This happens far too often to our children.
Our children are new in life. They ask lots of questions, trying to find their place, trying to succeed. They gage their success by their interactions with others. Sometimes they make mistakes. The way we respond to their mistakes is crucial to their development as confident, connected people.
As parents, we have a greater understanding of the world, but more importantly, we have more experience living in it. There is no way a child can know everything we do. They need to be taught, to be shown how things work around here. They need answers to their burning questions.
So why do we scold them so harshly, these pure creatures, when they make a mistake?
Why do we pull them aside, and yell in their faces when they spill their milk (especially if they embarrass us by spilling it on our friends carpet?)
What will they remember from that moment? To not spill milk next time? To hold their cup, in those small, awkward fingers, just a little more carefully?
No. They will remember the way our face morphed into a monster's, our voice cutting into their heart and shredding it into a million pieces, the overriding message radiating from our body language that they are worthless and stupid.
You see, kids naturally believe they are who we tell them they are.
If we convey they are stupid, or worthless, even without actually saying it, they will believe and unfortunately, internalize that message. Because their brains are still forming, these messages translate into new brain connections.
Soon their sense of self is built on a false foundation, a foundation their parents unconsciously, unknowingly, built for them. But that is not who they are.
We like to think that our kids are resilient. And they are, and will get over it. But the problem is, once they see us yell in their faces, once they feel our anger, and internalize it, they can't just erase it out of their minds. It's imprinted in there. And it's not a pretty memory. Think back to when your parents scolded you as a child...any nasty images come to mind?
Sure, apologizing helps. In fact, it's absolutely necessary if we're going to get anywhere with our children (meaning, have a close, respectful relationship). Our kids need to see that we acknowledge our imperfections. Why?
1- Because we teach them by example.
2- When they start to realize we are not perfect, they can start to make the connection that their worth is not dependent on how we see them.
This lays a foundation for one of the greatest lessons we can all learn in life:
That our worth is independent of anyone's opinion of us.
Unfortunately, apologizing cannot undo the feeling, the yelling, the display of emotion projecting onto our kids. Kids don't deserve to get rained on by our negative emotions.
But none of us are perfect parents. So how do we handle this? Shefali Tsabary has this advice in her book "The Conscious Parent":
"If a child is truly being difficult and you are in danger of losing your patience, it's vital to listen to the voice within you that whispers, 'Don't use your children as the receptacle of your frustrations.' When your child exasperates you, you are wise to hold an internal conversation in which you ask yourself, 'Why am I being triggered right now? Why am I so unhappy with my child? What is my child exposing in my internal state of being?' The smart thing may be to take a deep breath and leave the room. This affords you an opportunity to regroup, as you remind yourself, 'It's not my child who needs help right now, but me.'" (Shefali Tsabary, "The Conscious Parent," p.123)
Yelling, belittling, harshly scolding our kids is never justified because they weren't "bad kids" to begin with.
Kids come from a pure place, and are still so inexperienced, knowing so little of all that is acceptable in this world we have created for them. When we respond with anger or frustration, it's never about them; it's about us projecting our unresolved issues onto them. They don't deserve that.
So when we start to feel our inner witch come out, it's a good idea to check in with ourselves: "How am I doing? Am I having a bad day? Why? Am I dealing with some issues unrelated to my kids?"
Often it was a frustrating phone call or email, feeling a little too rushed to make it to the doctor's appointment on time, an argument with a spouse.
But the point is, the reason for our bad mood is not our kids. It's ourselves.
I love what Shefali Tsabary suggests: take a deep breath and leave the room in order to become more conscious of what is going on. Sounds so simple, but how many of us actually do this? Is it really easier to take our anger out on those more vulnerable and smaller than us than to exercise self control and leave the room? I propose that with practice, stepping out for a moment will become the default when we feel our emotions start to surge.
As I get ready for bed and review my day, the most important question I ask myself is: "Did I yell at my kids today?" or "Did I stay conscious & present with my kids, with an open heart, freely expressing love and admiration for their precious souls, letting our pure spirits connect, without interference?"
Rather than feeling guilty about the times I yell at my kids, I try to turn that into a positive intention for the following day, and develop a plan of action to respond more compassionately, more patiently to my kids, just like they are new on the job, trying to do their best despite not having all the skills.
My action plan for not yelling at my kids:
Stay conscious of my emotions. When I feel them start to rise, take a break and ask myself what is going on within me causing this reaction to my precious children.
So today, put yourself in your kids' shoes. Get down on their level. Look at the world through the eyes of a newbie, just getting started in this thing called "life."
And maybe this new perspective can help us to have more patience, more love, more respect for our kids, even in the most difficult times. Maybe this can help us to pause and refrain from dumping our unresolved baggage on our sweet precious children.
They're new on the job. Let's be conscious about helping them learn the ropes a little more gently.
Namaste, beautiful souls!
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