Substituting a Why or a What or a How: Paths to a Two-Way Relationship

My son’s school has a uniform. The last week of school and he wanted to wear gym shoes instead of the more formal black standards. My first reaction was no, it’s not a gym day. Can’t.

Then I recall how I always reacted to no or can’t. Yup, I was one of those don’t tell me I can’t or don’t tell me no type people.

I’ve also learned in six years of parenting the minute I say no, my kids are going to push back and take a sort of “I’ll show you” attitude. I wonder where they got that from? So instead of saying no to the gym sneakers. I asked what is going to happen if you wear the gym shoes on a non-gym day? It’s not a big deal, but they do get some kind of demerit for it. He thought about it and without me prying further actually switched to the shoes that he should be wearing for the day.

The why or what’s going to happen forces them to think about their action rather than just react the opposite way a grownup wishes.

We’re also dealing with a two-year-old’s signal that she’s not happy at the dining table:  throwing her food on the floor, mashing it around her plate and making an all out mess.

I usually react with a “stop it.” Or a no. And now I’m wondering what would happen if I asked her why she’s throwing her food on the floor? Language is a big reason why the toddler age is filled with meltdowns and temper tantrums. And whatever language I choose to use, guess what get’s thrown back at me? “Stop it.”

How true to do unto others as you’d like them to do to you. I don’t want to be told to stop it. At least not in that way, so maybe I should remember a few well known verses:

” ‘Give and it will be given to you.’ Luke 6:38 New International Version.”

” ‘A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sews righteousness reaps sure reward.’  Proverbs 11:18 New International Version.”

” ‘Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.’ Mark 4:25″

The last one is open for interpretation. My understanding is that if I approach a situation with love and understanding, say during a disagreement about what to wear or how to handle food at the table, then chances are better that I will get this in return. If I don’t approach the situation with virtues of this sort, then what do you think I’ll get back?

And the way I see it is if I can form a trusting, loving relationship in such a way with my kids while they are of ages six and two, then I’ll have a better chance in the long game of life.

Asking an open-ended question is harder work, but the reward could payoff more of a two-way relationship. A discussion of sorts. It doesn’t mean my kids are going to get to the end answer I’m looking for, but at least they’ll be thinking a little more about their actions, rather than responding to dad’s, “no, you can’t.”


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