Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Independence Day 2011! Teaching Sincerity to our children allows them to learn the value of Freedom of Speech

Teaching sincerity to children can be a task. One wonders what they actually pick up on. Yesterday, I had an ah-ha moment while I watched a young mother put a dried up felt tip pen to her mouth to see if that would moisten it enough to make it work. She then handed the pen back to her 18 month old daughter, who mimicked her mother's behavior! Her mother immeadiately said, "Oh, honey, you don't want to put that in your mouth."
A common saying that reflects this type of behavior is,
"Monkey see, monkey do."
Wikipedia tells us:
"The saying refers to the learning of a process without an understanding of why it works. Another definition implies the act of mimicry, usually with limited knowledge of the consequences."
Children are always watching and learning from the examples set before them. We need to be diligent and aware of the role we play as teachers. Everyone of us has an influence of good or bad, whether we are grandparents, neighbors, parents, or older siblings. Children look up to and trust their care givers to guide them. They have no other example to look to except those they are with. We are either teaching integrity and sincerity or hypocrisy and dishonesty. Of course, there are many things that adults can do that children cannot or should not do. These are times when it is acceptable and imperative to say no, you cannot do that.

My sister, a social worker, once told me that you should not make a child say "I am sorry" if they do not really feel it. If the child is still angry and feeling resentment, forcing him to say "I am sorry" when he is feeling resentment, teaches insincerity. The child learns that it is ok to feel one way and show another face to the world. He may stuff his resentment, question how he feels. He may even decide, "I must be a bad boy because I don't feel sorry." Instead of immeadiately telling him what to say and do, honor his feelings by taking him aside and asking, "Are you mad at Sally?" and "Why are you mad?" Then, after listening to his response and validating his feelings (because under anger is usually another feeling, like fear or hurt) You may ask "Are you sad that you hurt Sally?" "What do you want to say to her?" Let children come around. Even as adults, we need time to process our own feelings. When we feel hurt or threatened, we often respond defensively, sometimes saying or doing things we later regret. Then, after calming down and thinking it through, we often apologize to the person we hurt. Children need their feelings validated so they can learn how to handle them as they mature. Of course, we don't teach them to always say exactly what they are feeling or thinking. Children are brutally honest and most adults understand this and are not bothered by it. An example is my granddaughter asking why my friend wears a patch over her eye. I allowed her to ask the woman and the woman did not mind explaining it to her. It satisfied my grandduaghter's curiousity and mine too, frankly. As we grow and learn about communication skills, we learn that there is fine line between being tactful and insincere. One needs to learn that sometimes it is wise to not speak at all. At that same time, we honor how we feel and temper our emotions to respond appropriately so as not to offend. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I remember an incident where I said something that I had not intended as an insult, but it was taken that way. I also discovered that I had inherited certain attitudes, but that is for another blog, another day!