“How many parents experience the child’s reactions in terms of his being obedient, of giving them pleasure, of being a credit to them, and so forth, instead of perceiving or even being interested in what the child feels for and by himself?”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Parenting Needs Respect

I hear and see parents do this constantly, everywhere I go. A baby cries and it’s a sign of “neediness” or the baby is already trying to exert control over the parent. A toddler throws a fit over something and they are called “strong-willed.” A school child interrupts a LONG adult conversation, and they are scolded and pushed away.

It couldn’t possibly be that the baby’s only way of communication a basic need is to cry out, the toddler wanted something that was important to him but couldn’t communicate it in time, or that the school child had a limited amount of patience to wait for a break in adult conversation.

Contrary to popular belief, your children are not actually a piece of you walking around outside your body.

That is supposed to be a metaphor for how you feel, but it doesn’t really help you treat them as the whole individual human they were born to be.

We all are born with our own innate wants and needs. Our first communication tool is noise and as we grow and learn to control our muscles, we learn to communicate better and more precisely. Our job as parents is to help our children learn to use these tools. It takes a lot of time and patience because not only do our children have limited communication skills, but they also have a limited attention span and patience as well. And the only way to expand those is by giving them the time and space to practice using them.

Parenting Needs Patience

Poor communication skills and a lack of patience in adults, in my opinion, comes from lacking in practice while a person is growing up. Children that are set aside, ignored, or not treated as relevant human beings with independent wants and needs, grow up to be adults that insist on centering the world on themselves and treating others as NPC’s. That’s “non-playing characters,” people that have no active narrative, space filler for the game, for those who are not gamers.

Recently, within the last few years, my brother opened a car repair shop and has been complaining about people making appointments and not showing up, requesting things be done without regard for his time and effort, and things of that nature. I had the same experience working at a pregnancy clinic in the past. People would make appointments and not show, complain about how the place was run and what they received (for free, from volunteers and donations) when they were asked to complete tasks to qualify.

How do we, as adults, “reparent” ourselves so that we learn to treat others with the respect we wish to be given? How do we make it clear to those that treat us as NPC’s that we are not? Yelling and cursing at each other isn’t working. Calling people out for bad behavior, punishing people for having little patience, poor communication skills, or no respect for us, doesn’t seem to help either.

When a baby cries out, we look to see what the problem is and attempt to fix it quietly and calmly. When a toddler pitches a fit over the wrong color cup at lunch, we lovingly give him the one he wants when we can and when he’s happy again, explain how it might be easier for both of us to get what we want next time. And when the school child interrupts us with his antics, we hold his hand or let him join in our conversation for a moment and then shift the attention to him so that he’s shown he is respected and how adults give others a chance to speak. We don’t hold grudges against them, yell, or punish.

Could that work with the adults around us? Loving space, respect for individuals exactly where they are, and sympathetic consolation for the natural consequences of their actions would go a lot farther than pushing people into a corner until they behaved according to our own wishes.