Thursday, April 25, 2013

Give Children a Voice - Make Sure They Are Heard

This post is about making sure that children know that what they want and what they think is important and that their voices should be heard.

I am of a much older generation and was born into a farming community.  I did not stay there long because my father had to find work elsewhere.  However, my mother grew up on a farm with a tough and abusive father and a quiet, diligent and completely competent mother. Some of the lessons taught to my mother stayed with her even though she hid inside herself the abuse that she had suffered until I was in my 40's so that I only remember my grandfather as an old, loud man who seemed to genuinely love his grandchildren.

Some of the lessons my mother taught us were
1. Speak only when you are spoken to.
2. Children should be seen, not heard.
3. Always say yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am, no ma'am.
4. Boys get up out of your seat when a lady enters the room.
5. When entering/exiting a room/building it was always ladies first.

Just to name a few, but today I want to talk about the first two.  I am sorry, but I have grown to disagree with these precepts.  Not in their entirety, but to some degree.  My children were always taught to keep quiet when adults were having a conversation unless they asked you a question (not that they always did this).  But I see in my grandson who is an extremely gifted child and has the verbal communication skills of a young adult, the need for this rule to be somewhat relaxed.  Why?  Let me tell you.

I decided long ago that going out to eat was a treat but one that was necessary for my children to learn to behave properly in a restaurant because we always enjoyed a more relaxed family atmosphere at the dinner table at home.  So, my daughter has taken up this mantra as well (when it can be afforded). Because of this my grandson has learned how to choose his meals from the menu, and speak them correctly to the server when our order is being taken.  What we have found is that many servers simply do not listen to the children or look at them when they are speaking.  I find this to be extremely rude.

First of all, having been a server a time or two in my lifetime, I know that you must pay attention to the children and not just because you think it is going to get you more tip, but because you genuinely want to hear what they have to say and let them know that they matter as much at that table as the adults do.  When I have done this, I have always, always seen better behaved children and no not always a better tip, but that would have been just a perk.  The families always thanked me for treating their little ones with respect.

Last night we were out with friends at dinner when the server took our orders, first of all, she barely took the time to listen to the adults at the table much less the child.  My friend began to give my grandsons order and I asked her "please let him place his own order." to which she complied with pleasure at his ability to do so eloquently.  The server then, looked at the adults at the table because it was not truly possible for her to know which was the mother, and asked, is this right, is this what you want for him. Now to this my grandson got a little cocky and said, 'why you asking them, they are not going to eat it, I am?" "By the way, could you make sure to tell the cook not to put pickles on my cheeseburger or even on my plate?"Not one adult at our table spoke.

I was so proud.

Then as dinner progressed enjoyably and for this also extremely ADHD child he was so good, he sat still for the most part and though he talked a lot, he did not interrupt the adults except to say "excuse me" when there was a lull in the conversation.  Again, so proud.  But then, he wanted his drink refilled.  The server was at our table delivering a couple of refills and he raised his hand, said "excuse me ma'am", she ignored him, again he raised his little arm and said "excuse me" again she ignored him.  Finally after his third attempt to no avail and he was "ah, man, no one listens" under his breath.  I said to her as she was about to walk away, "excuse me ma'am" she immediately stopped and said "yes, is there something else I can get for you?" to which I responded.  "Yes ma'am, this child is trying politely to speak to you."  She immediately looked ashamed and said "yes, can I help you?".  My grandson, said to her, "yes ma'am, could I have another drink please."

My girlfriend asked me why I had done that, why did I not just tell her would like another drink.  I could not believe that she had asked me that.  So I politely explained to her, "he may be just a child, but he has excellent communication skills and he knows what he wants, why should he not be allowed to speak for himself when he is being respectful and polite?"  She said, "It is just easier to speak for them."

That is it in a nutshell.  We can not continue to do things for our children just because it is easier than to allow them to do it for themselves whether it is speaking for themselves or handling a pair of scissors (children's scissors, of course).  How are they to learn to handle things like a conversation or the typical everyday occurrences if we don't allow them to try.

How do we ever expect them to be able to tell the good news of Jesus Christ, if we never let them speak in the more mundane aspects of life. How do we ever hope to accomplish raising, competent, intelligent, independent children, if we don't let them speak for themselves when they can, often times better than we can for them?

Personally, I want an independent grandchild who knows what he wants and knows how to ask for it efficiently, with respect and courtesy.

Kudos to you Jaeden.

Thank you for listening.

Be Blessed
Mimi

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