As parents, we can simply SHUT UP! If we can sit back and listen to ourselves, we can hear how much negative harassment we throw at our kids. If a parent would seriously and objectively listen to what he says (through his child's ears), he would be appalled and could probably with some effort change that kind of "No".
I think here of Lisey (then 3) who was pouring herself a glass of milk yesterday. She had gotten it from the fridge, opened it, poured from a fat 2-quart carton a very small juice-glass of milk, had drunk it, then had gotten a paper towel and was wiping up the milk spilt on the table. There was more milk spilt than the towel could absorb so as she wiped now, the milk was being pushed off the table onto the floor.
I walked in at this point and started with the running "No, No" commentary in a whiny voice: "oooooh, no, Lisey, you should have asked someone to pour you a glass of milk-no, don't wipe it up, it's going on the floor; now stop, don't do it, I'll do it, it's bad enough on the table- look, now you've got it on the floor- you're making more work for me."
Happily at this point I was struck by a rare beam of sanity and it said to me, "Oh, quit being such a bitch, Lisey has just poured her first glass of milk all by herself and you're ruining the whole thing for her."
And suddenly I looked and saw a very little girl trying very hard to grow up- trying to wipe up herself the mess she had made getting herself a drink of milk. And I said, "Lisey, I think Sparkle (dog) would like this extra milk."
Lisey stopped and looked at me. I had finally said something of meaning. All the negative harassment up till then she had been trying to ignore. I said, "If you get Sparkle's dishe, we can put the milk in it."
She got it and we did.
And immediately she began an animated chatter about how Sparkle would like this milk and how she had poured them both a drink of milk, etc. Until then, she had barely said one word. In fact, if I had pushed her far enough- "Ok, Lisey, get out of the kitchen while I clean up your mess"- she would have probably ended up crying (over spilt milk!).
But the happy ending here did not require much effort on my part because I wasn't very emotionally involved. My mind could still be objective about the situation to the extend of being ale to control and change it.
The above was taken from Teach Your Own (The John Holt book of Homeschooling) by John Holt. It really struck me this morning as I read this passage, recognizing my own self in the story, both as a parent and as a child and the view of the child in today's society.
There is beauty in a child. They are gifts. Gifts from our creator. And they can be the most joyful blessing if we open our eyes to see it. They can teach us by far more than any textbook, lecture, magazine article written by a scientist, lab experiment, or intellectual conversation. A child can change us, mold us into the beautiful work of art intended by our God. But if we take society's stance as an unborn child has no right to live and that toddlers are A**holes (yes, a real book title that totally appalls me to the deepest core) whether it be in a joking manner or not, we miss the true essence. We miss the chance to be shaped and yes, even work through our salvation, through the experience of carrying a child to term, giving birth, raising or even spending time with a child and enjoying that child to his and our fullest potential. That is a great tragedy.
Today's society seems to tell us that children are born trouble makers....even viewed as a problem from within the womb. It is not the child that is the problem. It is our selfish worldview that is the problem.
When I walk into a room cluttered with my son's toys and artwork, it is me with the problem. It is me that has trouble with how to accept that clutter as beauty. It is me that grimaces at his noises and interruptions as nuisance to my ears rather than music and opportunity for my betterment and growthn. It is me that worries over insects or a cool wind as he goes in and out the door enjoying his world. It is me that doesn't take the time to observe the things he is learning as he builds the mountains of blocks or stacks his 20 animals around him in the living room or the mountains of papers on the kitchen table and floor surrounding it. It is me that is not grateful for the messes. It is me with the problem. It's not my child.
As a child, I was raised in a situation in which everything I did seemed to be a problem... whether it was an accidental spill, noise, moving my lips when reading, a thought of my own, forgetting to pick something up off the floor or table, a question that wasn't wanted to be answered, or simply not performing to the adult perfection or timely fashion expected of me. No and consequences for simply being a child and doing things that children do, did not shape me in a positive manner. I grew up, even after that environment changed, believing I must perform perfectly (in the eyes of others and myself) to be worthy of love or acceptance. Which means I often gave up many things before even trying due to fear, or didn't and still don't give myself credit for a job well done.
Is that what I want for my child? Is that what we want as a society for our children? For the young men and women that are growing up who will become the leaders of our society? I see myself, though over the years I've certainly changed for the better, still saying no when it could really be a yes. There are still so many cases where I really just need to shut up and listen. I need to stop condemning my child for being a child and just shut up....listen, observe and soak it all in like a beautiful symphony. Listen to my child and realize he (they) is there to teach me just as much if not MORE than I am to teach him. Observe from his perspective and see the beauty that God has given me through the eyes of this child. Yes, we are here to guide our children- but how do we do that? It need not be in the words of "No", "Get out of there," or "Not now". Learning not to say no in a way that demeans or stifles their spirit is a challenge but so necessary for them to be themselves and freely learn more than a school room or academic lesson will ever teach them- or ourselves for that matter. We don't HAVE to panic at every mess (though I still stick to my rule that he has to ask before he tapes one more thing to my walls.....) or assume the worse at their every move. We can enjoy these moments. Savor them really. Use them to awaken and change our spirits.
Create in me a clean heart O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.