Is it not amazing how mothers know exactly what their children want from the day they are born. Everyone else hears screams and cries, but moms know how to differentiate between a cry for food, a cry for affection and a cry for dirty diapers. How? They just know. They have a connection and a bond with their children. Now, fast forward to teenage hood and is it not amazing how not even mothers understand what their kids mean when they talk? We can blame it on hormones and teenage mentality, but the truth is it is beyond that.
I want you to recall how much time you spent with a new born. Contract that to your five year old, your ten year old and your teenager. Granted, time becomes less because of more responsibilities, school, activities, television and games, friends and social media to name a few distractions. But there is something else that helps separate us from our children. Us!
The demands of the children do not decrease with time, they actually increase. Initially, the demands are purely physical and emotional. But they change into economical, psychosocial and spiritual. They evolve into more complex communications and interactions. No more is a hug and a kiss enough. No more are holding and humming a tune enough. As they grow, so do our responsibilities and the stress and strain of communicating becomes more and more evident. When they are so little, they can do nothing to make us angry at them. My how things change as they grow and start to imprint themselves on our lives and the lives of others. They can now be called “little terrors”, “unbelievable”, “selfish”, “disrespectful”, “do not listen”, “rude and arrogant”. And we wonder where did they learn to act that way? We call them sons and daughters of the streets, we sometimes yell and curse at them, and we hit them. And all of these are generated from a whole host of emotions that are the byproduct of first and foremost: a breakdown in communication.
Whether you work or you don’t, whether you are at an important meeting or you are not, when you communicate with the person in front of you, you make sure they understand you well and are listening. Of course the more important the topic, the harder you will try and the more the emphasis you will place on getting their attention and your message across. How often do you do that with your kids? And how often do you let them do that with you? We too often forget that what seems trivial to us now once preoccupied our lives. We also forget that some of the things we thought of as kids seemed so real for us but are unrealistic now. We forget who we were and how we got here. Instead, in us there is a driving force, a nagging feeling that wants us to make sure our kids do not make the same mistakes we did. Well, guess what, they will and they will make more complex and different mistakes that are the products of their generation and their culture. They will think in ways we cannot comprehend, and act in ways that we never thought possible. They are very different from us, yet they share and need a fundamental tool that we all do: clear communication.
I can’t tell you how much this is an important topic. You can make or break a child by a word, an attitude, a statement, or a position you take. You can lift them up or bring them down with a smile or a frown. Neglect them and you create the worst inferiority complex and self-esteem issues in them that can be irreparable. Encourage them and be there for them and listen to them and you have a confident man or woman in the making. Be patient and kind and you develop a kind and thoughtful individual. Ridicule and criticize them and the product is an angry shy person who avoids others and can’t communicate well. Support them and help them and you create leaders. Discourage them and put them down and you create followers and self-doubters. And perhaps the most important currency you can give them is time and attention. There is a quote I read, it was wonderful. It says the “children need presence, not presents”. And they do. Make their time sacred, make the attention to them undivided, show them love and care, be kind and gentle, be firm and mature and you will have helped create a strong, confident leader who is kind and gentle. But none of this is possible, if we do not communicate with them well, and perhaps even more important, listen to them communicate right back.