Tell the truth

CHILDREN need adults to say it as it is. They can understand what you expect of them when you state it clearly without any put-downs or pressure. Being honest with our children can help draw us closer to them. In turn, they will let us know exactly how they feel without having to exaggerate or make up stories.

Take, for example, a two-year-old who is running across the room. His mother calls out to him: “Don’t run! You will fall down and hurt yourself.”

What she really wants him to do is to walk or find something to occupy his attention. She should say: “You are looking for something to do. Let’s search the toy box for something you like.”

When children misbehave, parents will point out what they do not like and tell them to stop that behaviour. Children need to know exactly what the right kind of behaviour is. They need to know that making mistakes is part of learning.

When five-year-old Janet lost her water tumbler in the kindergarten, her mother got upset with her and scolded her for being careless. When Janet’s mother lost her shawl some time later, she felt bad about what she had said to Janet.

Janet’s mother realised that she had been too harsh with her child. She could have said to Janet: “We lose things sometimes. I was upset when I lost my shawl. I did not want that to happen. I bet you did not want to lose your water tumbler either. We can both learn to be more careful with our belongings.”

Many parents tend to hide the truth from their children. When they are unhappy, they would tell their children: “Oh, nothing is wrong.” But children can sense that something is amiss. They would appreciate it if adults are honest with them and tell them the truth.

Children cry when they are sad, frustrated or in pain. When they wail, adults around them will say: “Oh, don’t cry.” They deny the young child his feelings. Some may even say: “Don’t be silly “or they would ask: “Why are you crying?” It is rare for adults to say to their children: “You need to cry because you feel bad about something. You can tell me or show me so that I can help.”

Your five-year-old returns home with a picture he has drawn to show you. Upon seeing his picture, you say: “Oh, how lovely!” without asking him what he wants to say about the picture. He may be displeased with his work or has a great deal to share about what he has done.

Without taking the time to find out, you have brushed aside your child’s feelings and made no attempt to learn what he wishes to share. Much can be done to enhance the relationship between parent and child, if the parent pays attention to the child first.

Children take their cues from adults. If the parents cannot get along, they will also display negative behaviour. They hear what their parents are saying to each other. They are probably troubled by the negative exchanges between their parents. So be mindful of what you say. Set a good example for your children to follow.

After a hard day at work, parents often find it impossible to manage their active children. When things go wrong, they would say: “There is no way I can get things done at home when my girl is so active.”

What the harassed parent can say to her daughter is: “I need you to help me by giving me some time to clear the house before we play.” Alternatively, she can focus on her child who cannot wait, and do the cleaning later.

Offer simple explanations to young children about what is going on. As they grow older, you may want to allow more time for their questions. My daughters often have more questions to ask me when I have something important to share with them. Instead of talking, I end up doing more listening. This usually ends on a positive note. It works for both parents and children.

There will be times when I find it challenging to explain things to my children or find comforting words for them when they are hurt. When I am unable to come up with the appropriate explanation, I would say: “I don’t have the answer right now. Maybe I can find out later.” Children appreciate our efforts to make them feel worthy.

by Ruth Liew.

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