We often carry expectations for our kids that we don’t hold for ourselves. Many of us say “ I want my kids to speak up when someone hurts them” “I want my kids to ask questions to seek information about something they don’t understand.” “I want my kids to tell their friend when they hurt their feelings.” Yet this is something that many of us as adults struggle with.
A child’s first and most important teacher is their parent. They watch everything we do and say but our words hold much more weight if they see our actions behind them.
I recently got into a conflict with my sister. We exchanged some text messages, both saying things out of hurt feelings. We knew that texting or avoiding the conflict wouldn\’t resolve anything. So we agreed to discuss it over the phone when we both could give the conversation the time needed. Resolving our issues was dependent both on being able to speak up about the things that hurt my feelings, but also on being able to hear my sister describe her feelings.
During one of our weekly family dinners I described the process with my family, leaving out details as it wasn’t their conflict to solve, but as a way to demonstrate how to work through a conflict.
This past Monday I attended an offsite meeting to which the goal of the meeting still did not feel clear to me after the 2 hours. I thought to myself “What would I tell my kids to do if they attended a class at school and did not understand? I would tell them to speak up and ask for clarification.” So I held myself to the same standard. I raised my hand and explained to the facilitator that I didn’t have a clear goal of what the purpose of the meeting was. Sure…I felt nervous in a room full of other professionals but If I expect it and believe it for my kids, I needed to model it and live it.
We encounter many people on a daily basis who have different ideas. Different ideas on how to celebrate the holidays, how to raise kids, how to load a dishwasher, whether it’s ok to color outside the lines, who to vote for, etc. Conflict is inevitable. We can practice respectfully disagreeing, setting boundaries and limits on our emotional and physical health, and listening and respecting others\’ limits and boundaries.
While we have these same goals for our children, keep in mind that adults have the ability to decipher and determine if a conflict is worth pursuing or if they should let it go. Most young children are still viewing through a lens of black and white while we have more experience and can see the grey. At SYC our goal is to help guide these conflicts so our kids can have the practice and gain confidence in becoming clear communicators who can set and listen to others limits and boundaries as adults.
…Amy Rudawsky, Co-Director