Listening To Our Children

A while back during one of my visits to the recycling center, I came across a sweet little book.   Always Kiss Me Good Night: Instructions on Raising the Perfect Parent by 147 Kids Who Knowis a compilation of elementary school-aged children’s answers to the question: “If I could tell my parents how to raise me, I’d tell them ‘___________________.'”  The writer who compiled the children’s suggestions, J. S. Salt, visited fourteen grade schools and met with more than one thousand kids from various economic and ethnic backgrounds.  The title, “Always Kiss Me Goodnight,” comes from a submission from Lauren, age 10, that says, “Never forget to kiss me goodnight”.  Some submissions that I like include, “Let me have my own style”, “Stop talking on the phone and talk to me”, “Take me somewhere special once in a while, by myself, without my sister”, and “Try to play football with me Dad, Mom is not great”.  One that I think my husband will appreciate is “Don’t throw away the stuff that we could put into our recycling bins,” by Nicole, age 10. 😉

Always Kiss Me Good Night is more than a cute collection of things kids say.  It offers an opportunity to “listen” to what children want and need, and to understand their feelings.  We live at a time in history when life is so fast-paced and families are faced with daily challenges to their time and attention.  So often feelings and needs go unexpressed or unheard, and opportunities for developing relationships are missed.  Although it is not always so easy, parents and families must make a conscious effort to find ways to make the time for each other and to eliminate the distractions that interfere with communication.  Because the quality of the parent-child relationship directly impacts the development of the child, it is essential to make that relationship a priority.

Recently I was reminded of Always Kiss Me Good Night because of my work with children.  In my position as a paraprofessional in an elementary school, I am a daily witness to the interactions that take place between teachers and other support staff and children.  Often I see excellent teaching and positive reinforcement.  Just as often, I see and hear frustration, resentment, and misunderstanding on the part of teachers and staff, in words said either to children or about children.  I see so many missed opportunities for developing relationships and trust with the children with whom they are working.  To me, this is sad,  considering the amount of time children (and staff) spend in school throughout the day and throughout the year.

When I remembered the child-given advice offered in Always Kiss Me Good NightI wondered about what advice or instructions kids might give their teachers and staff if they were asked, “If I could tell my teachers how to teach/work with me, I’d tell them ‘___________________.'”  Some of the responses I imagine, based on my observations, would sound like this: “Ask questions and listen to me before jumping to conclusions”, “Help me to develop my self-control instead of trying to control me”, “Don’t yell so much.  When I yell, you say I’m out of control.  When you yell, you seem out of control”, “Wish me ‘Good Morning!’ when I arrive to school before ordering me to ‘Go to class or go to breakfast!’ – I might have had a tough morning at home or on the bus” and “Be genuine when you give me praise”.  Another bit of advice might be, “Treat me the way you would want another teacher to treat your own kid, if you have/had a kid.”

When it comes down to it, we all want to be treated with dignity and respect, and children are no exception.  They have their own beliefs and opinions, their own personalities and identities.  While children are still developing, they are unique and are individuals, and they need adults who will nurture their dreams and support their needs.  As adults (former children), parents, and teachers or those who work with children, we have a responsibility to give our children the best of who we are, and to treat them in the way that we ourselves would want to be treated.  The investment of our time, attention, and love in our children’s lives will always serve to improve the quality of a child’s life and better the quality of our relationships with our children.

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2 thoughts on “Listening To Our Children

  1. Thank you for your beautiful words of insight. I agree regarding the everyday moments that can be teaching moments instead of demanding/controlling ones. I have a great relationship with our (20! year old) daughter and I know that part of the reason is that I have always treated her like a human being with the same ability to think and feel as I. Although, truth be told, the 2 child-rearing books I read “From Birth to Age 5” by Penelope Leach, and “Kids are Worth it” by an educator and mom, Barbara Colorosa provided great lessons for compassion, patience and love.

    • Brenda, I know what you mean. I was just saying to my husband today about how River, his two-year-old granddaughter, despite her size and age, is a person who knows what she wants, is able to communicate it, and already knows how to set some boundaries.

      Children are very capable and more sophisticated than we often give them credit for. Unfortunately, what I sometimes see at school is an adult who is either frustrated or feeling the need to control every situation, and often that expresses itself as bullying behavior on the part of the adult. Which is ironic, because we teach and talk about anti-bullying all the time. What happened to leading by example?

      I do understand that there is no such thing as a perfect parent or teacher. We are human and we make mistakes in judgment. Our children aren’t perfect either. But I believe that we should examine our words and actions and strive to be more conscientious of the impact we want to, and do, make on children. I know that, as a parent, I didn’t always make the best choices while raising my now-twenty-two-year-old daughter. But what I did establish in our relationship was an openness in our communication and trust. She knows that she can come to me with anything and I will not judge. She knows that not only do I love her, but I respect her as an individual as well. It sounds like you have this with your daughter as too.

      Thanks for your comment! Take care, Annette

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