Teaching Kids To Be Good People

As I did in my last post, I’m going to reference something wonderful somebody else said. 

Is that lazy? 

If it is, I don’t care. There are certain people writing and talking about ‘parenting issues’ who have truly influenced my thinking. They give me hope and inspire me to be the best Dad I can be. So I’m going to shout their names and their wisdom from the top of whatever mountain I can (this lowly blog will have to suffice for now).

The thinker/writer I’m shouting about this time is Annie Fox. I’m currently reading her book Teaching Kids To Be Good People (see how that’s not ‘..To Get Accepted at Harvard’, or ‘..To Be The Most Popular’; it’s, ‘..To Be Good People‘). There’s a wonderful bit in there (one of many) where Annie offers her theory about why it’s difficult to ask for what we need (emotionally):

Babies are irresistibly cute so adults fall hard and take good care of them. Once they’ve gotten their sweet baby hooks into our hearts, they are experts at expressing their physical and emotional needs, nonverbally. As our children grow, our conversations with them center mostly on the physical aspects of life: Sweetheart, are you hungry? Do you want something to drink? Is it nap time? Why don’t you put on a sweater? As a result, asking for tangible stuff is very easy for kids: Dad, I need a ride. Mom, I need you to sign this. I need a new phone. I need money.

Because most parents don’t teach kids about expressing emotional needs, teens rarely say: I need a hug. I need to share this exciting news! I need you to listen. I need you to tell me the truth. I need help.

The passage reminded me of an observation I’ve made. It seems to me that many of us- parents, grandparents, friends- make a big deal about the littlest sibling, but maybe not as much about the older brother or sister. On one hand, this makes perfect sense; the ways we interact with a 4-yr. old and a 10-yr. old are obviously going to differ. But I’m always hyper-sensitive to it, and I find myself making an effort to divert some attention to my older daughter if things get too focused on her younger sister for a prolonged period of time. 

I wonder if we feel that, as they age and gain some independence, kids require less and less of our loving warmth.. that we can ease up on attending to their emotional requirements in the same way we no longer cut up their food into bite-sized chunks.

Can we? Should we?


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