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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

Keep the door open

Let me show you another way.

Sometimes, the words you use (or don’t use) say everything. Sometimes, the tone and the delivery give an entirely different message than the one you’d really like to use or even from the words you are using. Sometimes, just your opening phrase can shut a proverbial door, especially when dealing with a teenager (who might be overly-sensitive, angst-filled, or just angry depending on the moment). Or another adult (especially after a long tiring or trying day). Or a younger kid who has not yet decided that mom or dad is always wrong but still continues to think they are always right. So. What can you say that keeps the doors open? And, perhaps more importantly, how do you say it?

Let me show you another way.

If you are a parent, like me, you correct your kids all the time. It’s almost as if it becomes an automatic response: Feet off the table, napkin on your lap, stop chewing with your mouth open. Stop picking on our brother, pick up your socks, walk the dog, finish your homework. The words fly out in a torrent, brisk and rushed, with no thought to tone. It's just what we do: we say what's right, what's best, what we need to convey. We don’t mean to be bossy; more often than not, we DO know best. Is it our place, though, to not let others – our kids - learn for themselves?

If you're a kid, then you know what I’m saying is true: making decisions for yourself is not generally the norm. Or, if you do say what you think is your truism, you get rebuked, rejected, or rechanneled. Call me more often, stop working so hard, get more rest, be nice to your sister. They're commands, all, and we humans flow through our days issuing them, dodging them, being caught in their wake.

The meaning is clear: I know what I'm saying. Do this, do that, my way, the right way.

Parents, let’s leave room for others –kids – to learn for themselves. Perhaps you do know the best way, the easiest way, the quickest way. Perhaps you have made that mistake before. If you want your child to continue to listen to you, stop telling them what to do. Let me show you another way: gently, redirect, inform, and then leave them to make their own decision and action. You will have done your job best by stepping back. Because you have been there for every step of the way this far, your kids will know how to keep going in probably the right direction. Much like letting go of the bike on that first maiden sans-training-wheels voyage, this too might result in scraped knees and/or pride, but they will eventually get the hang of it.

Let me show you another way.

Sometimes, you have to remember that when you are offering advice, or trying to remind about something, it comes across as nagging. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how well intended your message may be, it is not falling on listening ears or a receptive attitude. Sometimes, it is best to start with a hug, and then see where you can go from there.

Let me show you another way.

Friends, remember this: your job is to guide and teach. Your job is to advise. Your job is to aid. Your job is not to do or to live a life for another. You had your chance; this is theirs. Let them do it for themselves. Yes, please do step forward to offer suggestions but then LET. THEM. DO. IT. Hands off, mom and dad, and trust that they will do their best.

It is ever so hard to do that, I know. I struggle with the here-let-me-do-its. Sometimes – okay, often – taking over would be the quicker option. Any parent who has gone through the shoe-tying debacle would agree. But if you always do it, when will your kids learn? They can’t live in Velcro shoes forever, my friend. An extra 10 minutes spent patiently waiting, sitting on the bench instead of helping move the heavy bucket of sand, or sitting back while your kid figures out how to untie the knot for themselves will result in them learning how to do it. Because they can indeed do it. So let them. Kindly, gently, give them your thoughts, and then let them choose for themselves if they will follow your suggestion or not. They will learn, and won’t that be better for them in the long run?

Can you show me that again? Maybe I can learn your way.

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