What kind of a person we want to see our children grow up to be? It is a primitive yet elegant question. Like every parent in the world, we have dreams about the person our child will become. Many parents will say that they would like their child to become a doctor, or an engineer, or a biologist, or an expert in any discipline. Many parents will dream that their child will be an athlete, a musician, or an artist. Many will say that they would like their child to be whatever the child wants to be. No pressure.
Like millions of other parents in this world, we would like to see our son become a nice person. It is the simplest wish a parent can have. A crucial item is that toddlers do not know the definition of being nice and what is right or wrong. Nourishment of good items and discouraging not so good practices are what parents need to practice. However, our life now a days is so complex that the definition of not so good acts is becoming blurry. We experience rudeness, harshness, and much of other misbehaviors in our day-to-day life and ignore them because we have better things to do.
Kids will definitely hear about honesty, truthfulness, and empathy in school. They will hear about the greatest minds of all times: Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and many other respected names around the globe. They will learn about all the messengers of God. We are not worried about what our child will learn from formal education. What worries us is how will our child learn about the tiny things that we ignore in our day-to-day life. Some examples of items that we do not want anyone to experience from our son is negligence reflected through raising an eyebrow, a smile in the corner of the leaps that figuratively says “you are dumb”, and a gesture of disrespect even for a nanosecond. These behaviors appear for such a little amount of time in the face that they easily get unnoticed. It is hard to provide examples of these behaviors to raise a discussion with a kid. We are still figuring out how we will explain these things to our son when time comes.
Some behaviors (or more precisely, not so good attitudes) that we plan to discuss with our son are provided below. Our son is now four and definitely does not realize the complexity of the world. I guess, he understands from his perspective — at preschool level. In the last retreat in the daycare, we saw how another kid slowly got hold of dear son’s hotdog and juice box just in a few minutes. 🙁 Did our son complain about it? No. To him, it is called sharing with a friend. Anyway, maybe more on that later in another post… Let us get back to the list of items that we plan to talk to our son in the future.
Who is next?
As a slow speaker, I (dear dad) experience that people sometimes become impatient while speaking with me. By people, I do NOT mean friends, colleagues, neighbors, family, or relatives. In fact, I do not mind if any of them becomes impatient because I can politely tell them, “Let me finish please.” The problem becomes slightly elevated when I speak with people in the front desk of an office, let us say, in the post office. After fifteen minutes in the queue, I get a chance to speak with a person. The person just says, “I cannot help you. Who is next?” Dude, I am not yet done. Why are you saying, “Who is next?” I still have a few more questions. Of course, I never ask any other question after the person says, “Who is next”. Instead, I go to the office again the next day, with an agony of failure in mind and fear that someone else will shut me off. Fortunately, I find a very nice person who listens to the situation, answers all my questions patiently with a big warm smile in the face, without looking behind me even once to the next person in the line. My time of agony is over. God bless the person I spoke with the second day. Wow. I am smart. I keep trying till I find the right person who is patient enough to listen to what I say. The question is, do we ever want our kid to be the person who says, “Who is next”, before ending a session with the previous client nicely?
Complete sentences of other people
Again, I am a slow speaker. It is very common that many people will fill out my sentences with their words. I appreciate good listeners but I understand that many people do not have time to hear my complete sentences. Over time, I have learnt to live with this. How? I would avoid speaking with people whenever there is an option. For example, instead of speaking with customer service representatives, I would prefer to use online chat for simple questions (not all questions can be answered by online representative). Please do not get me wrong, there are the nicest customer service representatives I have spoken with for whom I have given a five star ranking through their company surveys. It is the fear that someone will complete my sentences with incorrect words and give me a wrong service that concerns me.
We went to a number of local mortgage companies when we were shopping around for a home loan. Surprisingly, people who did not complete my sentences were the ones who gave us the best deal with the lowest interest rate. Coincidence, or fact, the real estate agents who did not fill out my sentences turned out to be the best service providers. We will talk about house buying tips in another post. Do we want our son to be the smart-acting fellow who fills out sentences of other people? Or, we would like to watch him grow as a person who will modestly and patiently listen to people and then respond based on what the person said without making assumptions?
You are at the front desk of an office. The person in the front desk keeps typing and looking at the monitor. The person stares at you with a question mark in the face, then the person looks at the computer screen with a smile. Clearly, the person is chatting in his/her favorite chat-group. What is wrong here? Getting carried away by something and forgetting the real job are common in this era of distractions. I have provided an example of a front desk here, which sounds a bit funny but things can be more complex. The greater the skill the higher the responsibility is. Should a neurosurgeon take a call during a critical operation? Who knows what distractions will be out there after thirty years? How will we teach our kids to be respectful even when the service receiver is not observing (for example, the senseless patient on the operating theater)?
Asking for opinion but criticizing in return
I think, we can better explain it with the following example. I have borrowed this example from a public site and anonymized it. I have erased the user IDs and provided fictitious aliases: Person1, Person2, and Person3.
Notice that Person1 requested for opinions from others but after receiving just two comments, Person1 states “Give me a break”. Do we want our child to seek for opinions and later say, “I hate your opinion. I will do what I like to do”? A bog NO to such an attitude. We would like our child to ask for opinions from others, respect the opinions, and come up with whatever seems the best after hearing all the suggestions. We would like to teach our son that he must respect the advice providers even if he disagrees with them. It is you, dear son, who is seeking advice from them. It is also you who will make the final decision but you have no right to disrespect people who helped you by sharing their thoughts. If you do not have the strength to respect opinion, do not ask for it.
Giving a criticizing/judgmental smile
We do not come to this world with all the knowledge and skills. Learning is a lifelong process. The basic idea is to quickly learn the art of learning so that the lifelong learning becomes easier. Time to time, we face new problems that demand new knowledge. Did you ever feel like a fool after asking a question that led to a situation after which you wanted to bang your head hard on a wall? If your answer is “yes”, then you are not alone. There is at least one more person who felt the same way many times. Most of the times, this feeling of shame, “Why did I ask that question?” comes to my mind when someone gives a joint-eyebrow look with a gesture that implies “you are dumber than I thought”. I would try to teach my child not to express this type of gesture to anyone. This attitude must be avoided — I am knowledgable and others do not know what I know. I am pretty sure that there is someone else out there who has a skill that I know nothing of. Therefor, let us respect other people’s questions regardless of how trivial the answers are.
Reluctance in apologizing on behalf of a group
Apologizing is not a weakness. It is a power. Of course, one will apologize if he/she is wrong. Sometimes we may have to apologize on behalf of others whom we do not even know. For example, John works in a nationwide bank. One day a client calls and mentions that she will close her account because the bank sent a letter, which states that her credit card APR will increase. After verification, John finds that the letter was sent to the client because someone from another branch did a data-entry error. There is no shame in apologizing on behalf of the bank. Actually, there is no shame in apologizing even if there is no clerical error. It is alright for John to say that he is sorry to know that the client is closing the account. Then John can explain the options to the client if she is interested. It is always better to be sympathetic. Apologizing and speaking with a positive attitude can solve half of the problems of the world. We would love to see our son as a person who would be loved and respected because of his sympathetic attitude toward other people. Being able to apologize on behalf of a group is an act of bravery. This reflects responsibility and wisdom.
Trying to impose what one thinks is the best
Every practical problem in this world has multiple solutions. A solution suitable for one person may not be a good fit for another person. When providing suggestions or opinions, it is good to wear the shoes of the solution seeker. When someone seeks help, it is always better not to make it a big deal. It is better to provide flexible solutions so that there is some decision parameters left for the solution seeker to tune. A good problem solver never lets the solution seekers feel that they have lost control over the situation. This practice is not only good in professional life but also a suitable one in setting parenting strategies.
Thank you very much for reading till this far of this article. The summary of this article is — we have our dreams and expectations about what kind of a person we would like our kid to be. It does not quite matter (or, may be matters a little) what profession our child will choose, what matters is the personality a child will hold in the future. It does not quite matter what list we come up with in preparation of our child being a nice person. What matters is whether we are thinking and planning about it. What matters is whether we are acting and practicing to reach the goal or not. My method is better than yours; your method is more effective than mine; all these are just debates because we may not even be able to see the outcomes decades from now. How can we really say which parenting strategy is better? All we can do is to try our best in introducing all nice behaviors to our kids.
Please feel free to discuss your parenting ideas and what items you would like to see in your kids.
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