Are we setting expectations?

I’d never really thought about how my statements could be setting expectations for my four-year-old grandson until  I heard a mother announce to the other parents at the playground,“We’re  grouchy today. We got up too early.”  She was sitting on the park bench with each of her  children, a child of two or thereabout and another around four,  wiggling to seemingly get onto her lap.  The four-year was whining loudly that Ian, the younger, was in his way. Ian was whimpering.

I wondered what these children were hearing. Was the expectation set that they should be grouchy?  If, as I like to think, children this age are trying to figure out what their role is and what they are suppose to do, by listening to what they are told, these children were behaving very obediently.

Would the children’s behavior have been different if the parent had said instead, “ We got up way too early today. We will have to work hard to keep our voices low and to find things to do to not be grouchy?”  She might even have continued, “Let’s go for a nice high swing,” while actually getting up and guiding her children toward the swings. Who knows what the outcome might have been but it is worth thinking about what expectations our words may be giving to our children.

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My child is talking about death. Is this normal?

My daughter (7) has recently been making morbid comments and seems to find them funny at times. For example, the family dog was taking a car ride with us and she commented that “if we were in a car wreck, Dog is going to die” (because the dog wasn’t buckled in) Most recently she told her aunt that it would be funny if said aunt died in a hurricane that had a name that rhymed with aunts name because it would be ironic. I explained to her that death is not a subject to joke about, and that the things she says can hurt people’s feelings. I strongly cautioned her to think about the things she’s going to say before she says it, but I’m still slightly concerned about the sort of comments she makes. Is this normal?


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Listening without interpreting

A friend told me the following story twenty years after it had occurred.

She found him, she told me, her thirteen year old son, in his room sobbing. Here he was just back from his two month summer visit with his Dad. He’d seemed happy to be back and had had little to say about his visit.

“I’ve done it,” she thought, as she sat down beside him and put her arm on his back. While her son had been gone she had married Ken, the man that had been in their lives for the last three years.

In the years since Jeremy’s father had just up and left them she and Jeremy had become very close. The older boys were teen agers and off doing their own activities so there had been just the two of them so often for supper or watching TV of an evening. Then as Ken became more involved in her life he’d joined them for a game or a movie. He’d started taking Jeremy to ball games. An avid fisherman, when he realized that Jeremy wanted to go, he’d taken him along. “But doing things together, and his mother marrying the man must have been too much,” Grace concluded thoughtfully and sadly.

Patting Jeremy’s back gently Grace asked very softly, “Can you tell me what’s troubling you so much?”

Jeremy, between sobs, sputtered out, “I love Ken more than my own Dad.”

It is so easy to listen carefully and then draw our conclusions which may or may not be an accurate reflection of what is actually bothering our child.

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Sibling relationship

I want my children to like each other. My brother and I have no contact. Is this just the way siblings are or can I do something to help them be friends? My son is four and my daughter 1.

Submitted by: Becky

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Recognizing Feelings in Oneself and Others

Recognizing my own feelings: Until I was in my mid-forty’s I tried to hide my feelings of anger and sadness. My face was set in a tight smile, sometimes with my teeth clenched. My voice was well modulated and my words carefully and clearly spoken.  I looked the picture of calm, someone who had the situation under control.  I was afraid to show my feelings, let alone talk about them, because I had experienced frequent outbursts of rage, resentment, and violence seeping up through the cracks of out of our well-ordered home as I was growing up. Until my mid-forty’s my children and husband had to guess what I was feeling, sometimes thinking I was mad at them, when I was not.

As I tried to hold in balance my teaching job, care for our young children, and volunteering in my Meeting, my blood pressure increased and I developed a facial tick.  During a workshop at FGC Conference, I realized that the anger and stress I was carrying inside of me was about to taking its toll on me.  So through meditation and prayer, I began take notice of how I was feeling throughout the day.  When I was angry or upset, I learned to let it out in a constructive way with my colleagues, my family, and my friends.  The hard part about this was taking the quiet time to be aware of who I really was at that time, being “real”.

What feelings are you holding close to your heart, which you are afraid to let your children see?  What keeps you from showing those feelings?  What do you think will happen if you are “real” in the presence of your family, friends, or spouse?

Expressing my feelings: After my mid-life epiphany, the principal of middle school where I taught called to say that my son had been quite disrespectful to a teacher.  I got very upset!  I was embarrassed, because I worried that my colleagues would think I was not a good parent.  So in an unmodulated voice, and using I-messages, I told my son how angry I was about his behavior and why.  He was quite remorseful and apologized to me. Then he explained how the teacher had put him down in front of his classmates and how badly he had felt. My being “real” allowed him to be honest about what he felt.

In my late-forty’s if students in my classroom would make me upset by their talking, inattention, or misbehavior, I would stop the class and explain just how upset I was and why (again using I-statements). There would be dead silence, after which they would tell me what was going on with them, and then get back to work.

What happens when you let your feelings out?  Which parts of your body show how you feel without you saying a word?  Have you found a way to let your anger out in constructive ways?  How did your family or colleagues react?

Recognizing our children’s feelings: Paying attention to the feelings of our children is one way to affirm them.  It also gives our children permission to recognize and express their own feelings. When my children were growing up I was in such a rush to get them to school, to their sports, and through their homework at night, that I barely looked at or listened to them.  My daughter was a B+ student at a school where my husband and I both taught.  Little did we know that she had very high expectations of herself and was putting so much stress upon herself.  She felt that she was a not good enough student, that she wasn’t thin enough, that her clothes weren’t the latest and newest, and she couldn’t have some of the things her classmates had.  We were not aware of her feelings of inferiority until after she had graduated, because she kept herself together, she was well-behaved, a good student, and all-around athlete. I wish I had paid more attention to what our daughter wasn’t saying during those years.

When have you listened deeply or looked closely to the non-verbal cues your children have given you?

How did you acknowledge their feelings?  Or not?

What response did you get from your child, spouse, or colleague?

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