I thought if ever there were a time to see the setting sun’s green flash, it would be this evening. I reasoned the sky was cloudlessly clear, the gulf Caribbean blue, and the sun was its bright orangish-yellow. I reckoned that the blues and yellows, unobstructed and untempered by clouds, would create that green color the way paints do when mixed. And then, as we watched the sun melt into the gulf, it suddenly transformed itself into an ellipsoid-shaped green sun. We couldn’t believe our eyes, but we did know that we had actually seen what we’d talked about for years, a flashing glimpse of the green setting sun.
Convinced I had figured out this strange happening, I proceeded to explain how that blue sea and yellow sun had made that irridescent, bright green, sinking sun. Peter listened unimpressed. When we returned home from our beach walk, he got on the Internet to search for the scientific explanation. I was fairly well insulted. But this merely exemplified how we use different criteria for gathering and believing information. If we had been discussing child development or how children learn to read, my husband would have accepted my words as fact, but he did not use me as his reference for the scientific explanation of the green flash.
That’s the way it is with our children. They too have ways of knowing, systems they use that tell them whether a source can be believed or not. That explains why when your children are learning to regroup in math, the only one they believe can do this arithmetic is their own classroom teacher. You as parents may know a lot of things, but they don’t trust your information when it comes to their classroom math work. I’m sure you can cite lots of other examples of this phenomenon, but its importance needs to be noted because it has great implications as your children age.
If not now, certainly one day your cherubs will be adolescents. Many teenagers get this stilted idea that their parents don’t know much about what it’s like to be a teenager. They seem unaware that their parents were ever teenagers themselves or that they might have struggled with some of the same parent-adolescent power issues that confound them. But you have the advantage here because YOU know that you were once their age, were at their stage of development, and probably you even remember what some of your issues with authorities were way back then. Great! Get in touch with your teenage self and use that information to better deal with your own adolescents. You’ll find that you then, like them now, did not use your parents as a way of knowing about “street stuff”, you know, the stuff that’s really vital for a healthy self, accurate information about drugs and sex, for example. What was your information base? Whom did you trust to tell you the truth?
Hopefully this awareness will guide you not to lecture to your children, but instead to engage in dialogues with them. They may not agree with you, they may not think you know what you are talking about, but it’s important for you to let your children know how you’re feeling, why you’re worried about them or their situation or the choices that face them. Tell them that you know you don’t have the power over them to make their decisions. Relinquish it to them. They have it, anyway. Share your dreams for them and share your need to be a great parent to them. Let them know that as you see it, part of being a great parent is trying to deliver them safely to adulthood. Understand that some of the information they’re getting from their friends is faulty. They will believe it nonetheless.
Be ready for and supportive of others, professionals I mean, who might hold your child’s trust and belief when it comes to information they don’t think you know. And probably the most important words you can say to your teenagers or budding teenagers are, “Tell me what you think about …. I’d like to know how you’re thinking and what’s important to you.” It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but you do have to listen! And, if you find yourself doing all the talking, then no one is listening. To open the dialogue, ask for your children’s advice or opinion about something that really counts. In this way your children will sense that you value them as those who are important and whose ideas are worth being heard. Once your children are talking and you are listening, you’re on the road to relationship building. It’ll be a rocky road, but it is navigable with love, patience, and mutual respect. And if you’re lucky, it’ll last forever.
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Director/Elementary 1 Teacher