In my youth, I was very awkward around strangers and the task of speaking to an Aunt, Uncle or Cousin was even extremely nerve-wracking to me. Because of this, I pour a lot of energy into introducing my son to as many people as possible in these early months. I realize the reason for me in my early years was owed to being sheltered away from people. I grew up in a backwoods farm area and before Kindergarten had little to no socialization. It was not until my late 20’s that I began to be able to speak to people easily. In my late 30’s I can speak to large groups of strangers and have no fear, but I beg and implore Mothers and Fathers not to make the same mistake as my family. My father meant no harm and most likely believed giving me so much land to be free on was more important, but nowadays, we have the wonderful World Wide Web to help us parents share information and help each other.
Socializing a child as young as possible I believe is one of the most important steps in making him/her a communicative person. My wife takes our son on playdates with her friends’ children, whereas I take him for walks and encourage him, he really does not need the encouragement to interact with people. From shopkeepers, doctors, nurses, even a random person he sees dad speaking to. Stranger Danger is a different lesson in life and we will work on that later with him. About the time he is able to run around by himself. The other day a lady was trying to help my wife at the checkout and our son through squeals, laughs, and some baby talk managed to draw her into a conversation with him. She complemented us on how out-going he was.
I believe a child learning to play with their peers is going to have a lot of lessons that mom, dad, grandparents and our friends will not be able to teach: Other children are not going to let your child get away with as much and will give them a chance to learn to share and take turns. We sit with Dave and do our best to teach him to share, give dad a try, and be patient, but we do realize that other children his age will have a slightly different effect on him.
“Children should be seen and not heard” is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard – talk about giving a child a complex right from the start. Do not get me wrong, I do believe the youth need to learn to mind the adults that surround them, but they should not be treated as bothersome creatures. Even now when Dave goes off on his baby rants I will ask him, “What do you mean?”
At times I ask him to explain further so that later on in life he will not be timid if I ask him.
As a child gets older try not to make an innocent interruption into a scalding, but rather, a lesson. Tell the kid that you need to speak to the person alone and then later ask him what he wanted to say. Use this alone time with your child to explain that some things are sensitive to people and that it is best to ask you later or comment when you are sure it will not hurt the other person. I have seen, far too many times, an adult lash out at their child.
When doing different projects, going on outings, reading a story, or even watching a movie make sure to ask them their thoughts. Encourage them to come up with problem-solving ideas. Moments such as this is also going to give you the opportunity to see how your child really thinks and maybe even correct some miss-belief.
Dinner Time Conversations
This seems like a lost art in most homes today; something that desperately needs to be mainstreamed again. Something that always impressed me at the McDaniel’s home, my childhood best friend’s home, was how they got together for every dinner and spoke to each other about their daily events. Throughout the years, Don has been a mentor to me and taught me as much if not more than my father in somethings. Speaking with all the family members and showing interest in their daily life teaches them not just how to communicate, but also, have interest in other people’s lives. Leading back to last week’s article of empathy. I believe someone honestly having interest in other people’s lives and well being is one of the best ways to keep a lot of conversations going. Even if you do not have love for your child’s or spouse’s hobbies, listening to them talk about it will not only continue the conversation, but help them blossom in what they care about. Remember the best way to kill a conversation or any further conversations is to make it all about you or what you care about – something your child most likely will carry throughout their life not knowing why they do so.
This goes far past the dinner table and into many other facets of life. Despite my father’s long shifts he often found time to speak to me; it could have been me showing up to work, him deciding to take me for a drive after a ten to fifteen hour day, but he always made it a point to speak to me if he knew something was up. The absence of or dinner time conversation was owed to dad putting food on two tables. My friend’s parents seen I was alone a lot and made time for me as well. The point is that it could be any time and place and you may need to make time to speak to your child, or maybe your child’s friend if you see a void. These moments are vital for your child to see that you are open to talk to them about what is bothering them or even you just checking to make sure everything is really okay with them. We never know what our children are truly going through from day to day and need to show them that the pathway of your understanding and help his always clear for them – no matter how busy you may seem.
Our Children grow up in a blink of an eye and many of these vital moments are gone in a heartbeat.
“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities