The Question that Changed the Way I Parent Forever
I really enjoy hearing different perspectives about child-rearing. Sometimes when I’m driving I’ll listen to different parenting podcasts. I don’t agree 100 percent with everything I hear, but I take away bits and pieces that resonate with me. I’ve listened to podcasts that advocated super-strict parenting styles, very relaxed and liberal styles, and everything in between. I like different aspects of both.
One day, I was in the car listening to an audiobook— The Conscious Parent. The author, Shefali Tsabury, talks a lot about parenting with intention and seeing ourselves through our children—how they can be a mirror into our own souls. All of a sudden, I heard this powerful idea and my whole world changed: “How would you feel if your spouse talked to you the way you talk to your child?”
I paused the recording, and let the thought sink in for a minute. This was big. This was mind-blowing.
First of all, if my husband, Sean, so much as raises his voice toward me, I cry. Almost immediately. I hate being yelled at. It crushes my spirit. And how often do I raise my voice toward my kids?
If Sean acts semi-irritated or annoyed with me, it hurts my feelings. I feel like I’m less important, or bothersome, and then I close off emotionally because it makes me feel misunderstood. And how often do I sound irritated when my kids are trying to get my attention? Yes, they can be very demanding at times—“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!”—and I lose my cool. But really, they just want me to acknowledge them.
Or what about when I talk to them like they’re babies?
I would go nuts if my husband used a condescending voice when he explained things to me. “Do you think I’m an idiot?” I’d say. Yet how often do I forget to speak to my kids with dignity, as if they are capable of understanding? And don’t get me started on phones. When I’m talking to my husband and he looks at his phone or texts someone, or just isn’t giving me eye contact, I get so sassy. Yet how often do I continue my task while my kid asks me something? How often do I stay on my phone instead of getting down on my kids’ level and talking with them eye to eye?
I began to think about how I treat my spouse with respect and honor, yet I talk down to my kids. I don’t want to be like that. I never even thought about mindfully respecting them. As a mom, I’m just trying to maintain sanity some days. Keeping them fed, bathed, and alive is the goal! Other days I focus more on rules or behavior—but the real issue is, am I listening to their hearts? Am I catering to their emotional needs, not just their physical needs?
When they feel respected, heard, important, listened to, and understood…they don’t act out as much! Duh, right? They are people just like me, only smaller. They look like me, and they talk like me—why do I forget that they feel like me too?
Why do we look at our kids like they are dogs that need to be trained, rather than people who need to be understood? It’s so easy to think our job is to tell them everything they need to do. And yes, sometimes we need to direct them. But sometimes we just need to listen to their point of view. We don’t have to give them full reign over everything, but we certainly can listen to what they feel and help guide them through it.
This one question changed my whole heart. Since hearing it, I have worked so much on how I show respect to my kids. Sean and I are the loves of their lives right now. We are showing them and teaching them what love is. The way in which we treat them now shows them what’s acceptable. If we show them love, respect, and dignity, then they will give and expect that from their spouses one day. If I model good behavior and positive communication, they will take that into their own marriages. I don’t always get it right, but I am so much more intentional now.
So let it sink in: “How would you feel if your spouse talked to you the way you talk to your child?”
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #54.
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