I make a lot of mistakes in my parenting. Here’s a biggie: I expect that my children will understand my reasoning.
Isn’t that statement utterly ridiculous? How can I–a mother of thirty-some-odd-years–expect my seven-year-old daughter, who already has had a vastly different childhood than my own, understand why I do everything I do?
But I act like they should understand, a lot.
Acting in such a way can be a way of teaching through inference–kids can and do learn implicitly what’s expected of them. But frustration and discord can result when I behave as though something is self-evident when, in fact, it’s not.
It’s even more frustrating to them when I behave this way, and then refuse to explain myself.
Rather than expecting to be understood, I need to expect that I will be perpetually misunderstood by my children. My focus needs to be on what others in my life (read: my children) are experiencing and thinking. Changing my frame of mind is a difficult habit to perform. I have to spending time imagining what my kids might be thinking so that I can connect with that and explain my own thinking. And like any good project, a bit of book research and advice-seeking can help, from both “certified” experts and other experienced parents.
Listening intently to their questions means slowing down. I have to slow down to really hear and practice explaining myself in terms that my children understand. This will deepen our relationship and equip them for life–especially when it comes to the Big Questions, and our Orthodox Faith. Maybe the trick for me is to pretend they’re adults I’ve just met–little strangers–and to seek to understand their frame of mind more.