Keep the door open

March 25, 2016

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 give.  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 hasn’t yet decided that mom or dad is always wrong but thinks they are always right.  So.  What do you say that keeps the doors open?  And, perhaps more importantly, how do you say it?

 

Let me show you another way.

 

If you're 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 learn for themselves?

 

If you're a kid, then you know what I’m saying is true: making decisions for yourself is not general the norm.  Or, if you do, 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 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 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. 

 

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.

 

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?  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 know for themselves.  Let them do it.  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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