KISS = Keep It Short and Simple
As an adult, you know the value of preparation. Whether it is an exam, a presentation, a job interview, a new project, an athletic endeavor – whatever you want to do, it will go off better if you prepare for it.
And what is preparation? It is anticipating what might happen in the future, and working towards a result accordingly. You know you would like to drive, so you apply for a learner’s licence, learn how to drive, memorize road rules, and then appear for a driving test. In short, you prepare for it, because at some point in the future, you want to drive.
Same goes for a career. You want to work as a doctor. You find out what you need to do to become one, and then you do it. Even at work, when someone joins your team, the first thing you do is get to know them, and tell them what they need to do, how, and so on. You prepare them.
All your life, you prepare for events, people, and situations (fire drills and so on).
As a parent concerned about your children, you prepare them too. “Study hard,” you say. “You need to develop good work habits.” “You must cultivate discipline – without it, you won’t get anywhere.” “If you think this is too much homework, wait till you get to college! There won’t be enough hours in the day for the work you have to do.”
We try to Keep It Short and Simple. Well, simple at any rate. (Ask the kids – not one will say we keep it short 😉 )
But I’m convinced we could do a lot better. With KISSing, I mean. We draw grim pictures of the future, issue dire warnings about what will happen if they don’t do as we say or take our advice. But we don’t KISS in the most elemental ways.
What is the one thing we can ALL successfully predict? Change. Good or bad, it will all pass.
And yet, we don’t prepare our children for Change. When they are little, and think the world of us, we know that it is a mere phase. They will soon begin to question us. But do we ever let ourselves realize it? Do we prepare ourselves for it? More importantly, do we prepare them for it?
When my daughter was 3, we were very lovey-dovey with each other. Kissing (not KISSing 😉 ), hugging, playing – we had a lot of fun together. And I’d tell her occasionally that she would dislike many things about me when she grew up a bit. She was always nonplussed when I said this. “No, I won’t ever dislike anything about you. I really like you!” she would protest vehemently.
Let’s move forward to about 4 years later. For some reason I couldn’t put my finger on, she was becoming very difficult to be with. Things we did together earlier didn’t satisfy her, and she seemed to want something from me that neither of us could figure out. We were scrapping a lot. A normally cheerful child, she’d become a walking, talking complaint book. As I got into the car to drive her to a birthday party, she was being her fractious self, when it struck me between the eyes.
This was exactly what I’d been predicting! The only problem was, she was too young to know it, and I’d forgotten I’d predicted it. I smiled to myself. My daughter, in the middle of a litany of complaints, caught that smile and stopped mid-sentence. “What? Why did you smile? What’s so funny about what I’m saying?”
My response: “Remember how I used to say you’d not like me so much when you grew up? That you’d be upset with me and we’d argue and fight about things? Well, that’s what is happening now.”
It disarmed her completely. And me too.
She smiled into my eyes, “Oh! This is what you were talking about? I didn’t know…”
Those few sentences allowed us to find new ground on which to build a new kind of relationship. A much stronger one, if you ask me, because now we were also dealing with the reality of two different individuals who felt and thought and reacted differently to the world around them – but still managed to live with love and respect. Bonus: it bolstered the trust between us.
Teenage is the big one! Again, tell them what to expect. Let them know that it’s normal for them to feel that you don’t love them, that you don’t understand them, that the main purpose of your life is to make theirs a living hell. (Normal? It’s practically a rite of passage! 🙂 )
Do you think I’m exaggerating? If you don’t have a teenager, you might think so. In which case, think back to when you were a teenager. All these emotions might have been felt or buried; they might have been shared or not – but they definitely existed in some measure.
Because teenage is a time of growing up – more accurately, a time of growing away – from one’s parents. It is a time when your child will begin actively to search for his own identity. He will try on different personalities, depending on what he’s reading and watching, and who he’s spending time with.
It is a fantastic time for you to be a loving parent – by letting him know that his repudiation of you and everything you stand for is not ‘wrong’; that he is not ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’ or ‘ungrateful’ or ‘wicked’ or ‘worthless’ if he feels rebellious. Take away the guilt and shame of these emotions.
It is a gift only you can give your child. It is reassurance that will work only if it comes from you.
Tell her that things will swing back into perspective by the end of teenage, when she has a better sense of who she is. She’ll probably snort at that too. 🙂 Tell her that ‘growing’ is a lifelong process: a sapling becomes a plant and then a tree and then an older tree. Growth is ongoing – it is we who close ourselves to it.
Try KISSing – another way to enjoy your child. 🙂