Dirty Hands

I was remembering recently the time we had some friends over. Their young girls were enthralled to be digging up carrots from our garden. Erin, the four-year-old came running over to where there were some tasty treats set out. Clasping her dirty hands behind her back, she proceeded to manuever biting the grapes off their stems with her mouth. Her mom immediately jumped all over her about how impolite her actions were. To this admonition, Erin looked perplexed and amazed, “But you told me not to touch anything with my dirty hands!”

I love that story. So often the things we see our children doing that we think are inappropriate make perfect sense to them. Like Erin, they have used their problem solving abilities, followed the directive, felt confident their actions would be acceptable. Fortunately, in this case, Erin was commended for thinking up a good idea even as she was led to the kitchen to wash her hands.

Thinking up the good ideas – problem solving – is great fun and a vital skill for every child to learn. So often, as adults, we jump in too soon with the solution at hand and give it to our children. How much more valuable and mind-expanding to ask them, “What do you think we should do? How can we work this out? Why do you think…” and listen to their answers. It takes year of practice to come up with good ideas and use good judgment.  What parents will continually learn,however, if they listen, children have a lot to teach us

I think so often, as parents, we can be quick to react to our children’s behavior when we don’t have all the facts. All of us can remember some time in our childhood when we were falsely admonished for something that wasn’t our fault. I like what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of Your Spirited Child; Kids, Parents and Power Struggles; and Sleepless in America says.  She encourages parents to give your child her say, even if not her way.

Listen – consider – explore  “below the surface of a problem” –  your child will feel respected and learn from you to do the same.

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