There are some self-appointed experts out there (I might be considered one depending in the topic) who really don’t get it right. They remind me of Lucy of the Peanuts comic strip once who once declared, “If you can’t be right, be wrong loudlyl”
I’ve been frustrated ever since reading a column by a minister (his emphasis, not mine) who seems to think he’s got raising kids figured out. As is often the case these days, his solution is one-dimensional. He thinks kids need love; parents need respect and therein lies the tension in child rearing. His recommendation is to make certain our children feel loved when we discipline—that way they’ll be more likely to respect us. You’ve heard it before. Maybe you’ve used it before. “I’m only doing this because I love you.”
Of course he’s not wrong—unless you consider only dealing with half the equation correct. In my work with the kids I’ve found that kids need (and deserve) respect just as much as adults. What successes I’ve had includes dishing out lots of both love and respect.
There’s a young lady at school who is beginning to figure this out. When she needs redirecting and correcting she will come over to me, grab me around the legs for a hug and say, “Mr. Boomsma, I really love you.” It’s an interesting coping mechanism on her part and was initially very disarming. Assuring me she really loves me could, after all, make me melt into submission. “It’s okay. All is forgiven”.
This is not just about love and forgiveness, so I will respond by affirming that I love her as well but we also have to respect each other so together we can accomplish our work for the day. One of Mr. Boomsma’s rules is “follow directions quickly” and her love for me doesn’t negate the rule. She gets assurance that I also don’t feel any less loved when she doesn’t quite measure up. But this is also about demonstrating respect for each other.
My best day with her recently was when she kept saying she needed to tell me something. Unfortunately this came at the busiest time of the day and it was necessary to ask her to wait until things were settled so I could pay attention better to a girl who is easy to ignore; she’s pretty high maintenance. (But what five-year old isn’t? If you don’t figure out how to get the kids to help you prioritize, the school day can be long and arduous with nineteen little voices calling your name.)
When we’d achieved order, I walked over and knelt down beside her. I immediately noticed she had tears on her cheeks. When I asked what was wrong she replied, “Mr. Boomsma, I’m really sorry my behavior wasn’t very good today.”
So it was my turn to tell her I really love her. I don’t think she noticed the tear in the corner of my eye as I thanked her for trying that day. I felt loved and respected by her acknowledgement. She is accepting responsibility for her behavior as well as her love. I think we might be onto something.