My school-age grandson was filled with the importance of the story he was telling me. He paused as someone flew a paper airplane over our heads and their mother had to put a stop to that. She made a remark; I made another one back, and before you knew it, my grandson’s conversation got derailed.
“Gram!” He said, with a note of irritation in his voice, “you aren’t listening to me!”
It is right here that we all have a choice to make. Do we protect our egos or take a hit?
“You are right!” I replied, “I am so sorry. Go on with what you were saying.”
Here are some wrong choices:
- “Can’t you see I’m talking to mommy?”
- “Oh, all right. What did you want?” (irritated tone)
The worst choice, of course, is to not even hear him, to not notice his existence and just go on as if he weren’t there.
How many of you are guilty of any of those?
What these last three options all do is de-value the person in his own eyes. You see, to a child, your view of the world, is like God’s view. They don’t have a concept of questioning and critical thinking yet.
They certainly may – and will – object to mistreatment, but they don’t know why they’re objecting.
They don’t realize that YOU have actually done something wrong and that they have been ignored, dismissed, invalidated, and minimized.
So instead of realizing YOU mistreated them, your response holds up to them a mirror of who they are.
That’s not good because in this case the mirror would be distorted. The mirror would be telling them that they aren’t important or what they have to say isn’t important.
You can argue with me that it really isn’t. That is why children were once told to be seen and not heard. But the truth is that societies that repress children and strive for conformity of thought do not do well.
While it is true that the contribution of a young child probably would not save the planet today, encouraging him to contribute to the family conversation could very well save the planet in the future.
In the December 22, 2014, Wall Street Journal, in commentator Bret Stephens’s article, “The Marvel of American Resilience,” Stephens notes that “Innovation depends less on developing specific ideas than it does on creating broad spaces.” By comparison, while autocracies put their energies into the top 1% of the population, they don’t know how to bring out the best in everyone else.
But America, on the other hand, is “a free society that is willing to place millions of small bets on persons unknown and things unseen.”
Yes, they are important. The children, that is. And yes, their answers are also. But now, suppose for argument’s sake, this point was overlooked by a parent or grandparent who doesn’t want to admit that he was impolite to this child.
Suppose the little guy, let’s call him Jeremy, begins to cry because he got brushed off. The adult, still in need of protecting his ego against Truth, says, “Oh, please, be a man! Stop whining like a baby. No one hurt you.”
And now, the adult has compounded the grievance even more. Now, suddenly reality is being distorted. (a) This is not a man; it’s a small child who does not have to act like a man. (b) He is not “whining,” but crying – which is different.
Whining is for getting something you want that you did not earn or deserve.
Crying is from justified pain that was callously inflicted. (c) “No one hurt you” is crazy-making. Someone did, indeed, hurt him. To say it did not happen is to distort reality. Its a lie.
If you hurt someone you are never justified to say you did not.
You can surely say you didn’t intend to hurt that person, but other people’s feelings are their own and you have no business monkeying around inside of their hearts to tell them that they actually were not hurt.
Is this your way of reacting to others? Is your distortion of reality a pattern?
Now, on top of being minimized and invalidated, the child is also being told that he has no reason to feel the way he does; there is something wrong with him or he should dis-own those feelings. Patterns of lying to children put us in very dangerous territory. A person growing up with this message will doubt himself. This is at the root of addictions and depression.
Can you see that medications will not heal a person whose sense of reality was turned upside down by such lies his whole life?
Emotional healing from this is in order – and it goes beyond how a person feels: It must reach the soul.
What if that is not happening? Can a person help himself to heal? The answer has to be “yes.” Otherwise, you are a candidate for depression and that is not the only fallout from toxic messages. Other results can be:
- Not fulfilling one’s potential
- Fear of engaging life
- Relationship betrayal
- Not committing to a relationship (for those in the dating parsha)
Emotional healing from each of these is necessary but even better is not to choose your ego when interacting with children in the first place.