How Do You Respect a Child?
I was recently respectfully referred to as a “child whisperer,” as someone who is able to facilitate communication between child and parent. It was meant to be a compliment. It was meant to build credibility, since it was spoken in an introduction before I spoke to a group of parents about peaceful parenting in a busy world.
But, I felt so sad that parents would need a translator or a facilitator. Since then, I’ve been thinking about what I could share with parents and teachers that would help them understand children and communicate with them effectively, without the need of a facilitator. What is the main ingredient that allows me to deeply relate to a four-year-old during a school readiness assessment and in my next appointment, really learn about the hopes and dreams of a 16-year-old during a college choice consultation?
After much contemplation, I realize that the main ingredient is respect. I deeply respect children and hold them in high reverence. This profound respect is what motivates me to listen to them so intently that nothing else matters in that moment. Even, the shyest and the youngest student, after several shrugs and a few times of answering all questions with “I don’t know,” will eventually articulate his needs and feelings so eloquently, his parents will freeze.
How do you respect a child? Well, first, how is respect defined? It’s defined as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”
When you admire someone, you want to get to know them and be in their presence. When you admire someone for their abilities, you want to learn from them. When you admire someone for their qualities, you are inspired by them. When you admire someone for their achievements, you want to congratulate and praise them.
How do you respect a child? You listen without judgement, you are present, and you congratulate him.
Let’s have the patience to give all children the respect they deserve, even during a tantrum or when they talk back. There is always something they need to tell you that will help you understand their behavior, if you only wait lovingly, patiently, and RESPECTFULLY.