[Week 4 of 52 Weeks to a Better Relationship With Your Child]
Now before I get into the main body of the discussion, I wanted to talk for just a moment about the old photo that is posted as the title photo on the website for this blog/podcast. And it is a photo of me at a very young age standing at the back of a VW bug while my dad looks at the engine.
I chose this photo for this blog because it is one of my very first memories and it shows how the idea of work was introduced into my young life and that is – my dad enjoyed being productive fixing things. And not only that, but he enjoyed having me around at the youngest ages and showing me what he was doing and having me involved in his work.
So I owe a lot to my dad for having a helpful attitude toward work from the very beginning. I don’t remember struggling greatly with an attitude towards work in general because it was something to take advantage of and to use for good.
Now let’s talk about what all this has to do with respect and some nitty gritty about your attitude and how you can use your attitude toward work to develop the best possible relationship with your child.
Understanding how respect grows
Respect is something that has to be earned. It cannot be demanded. The deepest levels of respect are based on spending time observing a person’s choices and attitudes. The potential for respect is greatest with those who see us regularly face the demands of life. Many of such demands fall in the category of work.
Fortunately, the person watching doesn’t really need to be thinking very much at all about these things. Most of us don’t go around making lists in our heads about who we respect or don’t respect. Still, adults could pretty easily say who fits in these categories and why. Children might not be able to say why so easily, but they can develop a pretty good idea of who.
What work do children understand?
Children do not have to be very old to observe that much work is required in life. They subconsciously begin taking notes on how adults in their lives act about work. Are the adults responsible? Is there an attitude of concern for others? Do they complain? Do they avoid things that need to be done?
From a child’s perspective there are two main types of work:
- Work that provides resources
- Work that provides care
Do your children think you resent them?
Work that provides care is what children notice first. They can tell if those caring for them do it begrudgingly or are always trying to find ways to get away. In short, they notice if they are viewed more as a burden or more as a precious opportunity.
Some parents have a hard time differentiating this about their children, too. Taking care of young children is particularly intensive. There is physical labor and mental challenge involved. It can be difficult to know when and how to get rest. In the midst of this, it is vital that the children are well aware they are cherished.
Children will quickly learn to respect a parent who has an overall cheerful, can-do attitude about keeping the household running. This doesn’t mean parents aren’t allowed to cry or be upset, but this should not be the norm when faced with daily responsibilities. Unless the mom, is pregnant. Heh heh. But even then, it is probably a different kind of crying. Not a selfish and mad at everyone for being alive crying, just easy waterworks.
What your children might tell your boss
It may take a child time and maturity to understand the specifics of work that provides resources, but they still understand that the parent views it as work. As such, a child subconsciously evaluates a parent’s response. Is the parent responsible and trustworthy about job issues? Is the employer or customer treated with reasonable respect? Does the parent try to work well, trying to do a good job?
The child will hear and see things. Even if a child picks up bad habits and excuses from a parent, a parent who is a lazy or manipulative employee won’t be respected by the child.
Avoiding extremes in work
Adults tend to have two extreme responses to work.
- They want to avoid it as much as possible
- They immerse themselves in it to the detriment of other relationships
Work is closely linked to hardship in our present world, so it can be difficult to untangle it from that. However, work is not inherently laborious. Even if it is not our favorite work, we can lighten the stress of it by doing the best we can. Much of the labor, in a stressful or unenjoyable sense, comes to work because we get tired or run out of time or make mistakes. Some of this can be fixed by our attitude.
We do need to recognize when we need to rest or when we need to spend time with people apart from work. We also need to check priorities and expectations for work. In essence, work is important because people are involved. People and, in our discussion, children are central to both the need and the result. Children will respect a parent who exhibits this understanding.
Respect leads to other things
If much time is spent with children, there will be a chance to work with them. Not only will this give them more opportunities to build respect for a parent’s work effort, but it will be a time to cultivate the children’s work attitude. This will be partly done by patient training and partly done by accepting the results each child is capable of.
The funny thing is that while young children can develop respect, they have a more limited ability to love. They are very self-centered, but they still need to know they are loved, and not resented. Parents need to take the respect and work with it. It will grow into love as the child matures.
Things to do:
- If you are having trouble with your attitude toward work, try to evaluate why. Do you need to adjust expectations and priorities? Have you let others badly influence you?
- Consider the goals and purpose of your work. Do you see the value in caring for those you love?
- Avoid comparison. Realize that each person’s work frequently feels hardest to them. Be aware that while appreciation is nice, it cannot be a primary motivation to do what is good.
We all have to do work that we don’t really care for at some point or another and not all of us get the same chance to choose our work and choose things that we would like to do the most.
But we can choose our attitude about work and we can choose to do the best job possible and when we do those I think you may find you enjoy even work you didn’t think you liked much more. Develop that attitude and then pass it on to your children and everyone will be happier.
That’s all on that topic today. Now would be a perfect time of year to check out the book that I put out last year called Four Frogs in a Glass Pond. It’s a family friendly read-aloud that will encourage your children both to explore outdoors and to understand the physics of how to win a frog jumping contest!