Parents inevitably come up short (on patience, at least) when taking this kind of high ground with their kids. Even a child when asking “Why?” deserves something more than a power punch. True, lessons in obedience need to be inculcated in children, but in the process even the youngest mind needs to be respected.
Slamming the door on what is going on in a child’s thinking only leaves them with the noises of angry feelings. “Because I say so” may get the job done for the moment – a clean plate, clothes picked up, homework tackled – but leaves a mess of feelings going on. It even rules out any kind of “Thank you” or “Nice job!” from parent to child.
Children generally do not know what is going on in a parent’s life that makes Mom or Dad short-tempered. Sometimes kids become garbage cans for whatever that may be. What might be different if a child hears, “Look, I’m in a bad place right now and I really need you to…” or, “Do me a favor and…” or, “Mom’s not feeling well, and I’m running late, so could you please…?”
That is expecting a lot in the heat or urgency of the moment, but recognizing and respecting a child’s sensitivity is an important part of parenting. I remember yelling too many times at my 10-year-old son, “Just do it, will you?”, later apologizing (too few times) for being so short with him. I hope to this day my apologies made a difference.
Kids, like the rest of us, have a need to be treated fairly. In the body of any family they are nerve endings, sensing every nuance, even though not knowing the meaning of that word. They may answer back with a surly silence, and do what they are told to do, but they are inevitably left feeling angry and helpless. Teenagers may be able to question such “orders,” but predictably complicate the moment and get more of the same. Younger kids just obey…eventually.
Families are eco-systems in a world filled with stress. Kids may not sense the global stuff, but they rarely miss what’s going on in the home, even without being able to name it.
Generally, they shouldn’t have to wait for explanations. Parents can “let them in” on the challenges ahead by taking time to put words to the truth of themselves, by letting their kids know, to some extent, what is going on with them.
Lessons in truth-telling will never be wasted in their futures if only because truth and love live hand-in-hand.