I’ve been listening to a few of my podcasts and making some notes that I might incorporate into my upcoming unschooling book. Yesterday, I was listening to episode 70: Trust, Respect, and Love Unconditionally. I thought the following extracts might be suitable for publishing as a blog post. My daughter Sophie has some interesting things to say about how we should respect kids, accept them for who they are, and make them feel unconditionally loved. She was 15 at the time of this podcast interview.
Sue: When you listen to other families talking to each other, what do you hear?
Sophie: Parents always criticise: My child doesn’t do this. My child is always spending their time doing that. They’re too shy. They’re too lazy. The parents always seem to be complaining in public about their children.
Sue: Are the children listening at the time?
Sophie: I’m certain they’ve heard their parents say these sorts of things.
Sue: Even if their children aren’t present, do you think it’s all right if parents say things like that?
Sophie: Oh no, not at all!
Sue: You wouldn’t like anybody to speak about you behind your back like that?
Sophie: Oh no, it’s not really polite and it doesn’t respect the child. It forms other people’s opinions. It gives the people you’ve been talking to the wrong impression about your child.
Sue: We have to accept children for who they are. This is part of unconditional love, isn’t it? If you’re describing a child as too shy or too lazy, you’re not really accepting who they are.
Sue: I think the reason parents say these things is of out of worry for their child. They see something about their child that they’re worried about, some flaw in their character, or something the child is not doing right, and the parent wants to change that flaw or that trait because they think that maybe if the child changes, they’re going to be a better person or they’re going to get on better in the world. If they, for example, become more outgoing they might relate better to other people.
So a parent’s words could come out of concern for their child, not because they’re naturally critical but because they’re worried. They voice these concerns to their children and to other people. Other people might have ideas that will help. Their child, they hope, may pick herself up and try a bit harder.
Sophie: Yes, but I think this is going against unconditional love and respecting the child. A parent might see these things as flaws, but their children have other things that are wonderful about them. If they’re always focusing on flaws and never on the good things, then what’s a child going to feel about themselves? Probably they’ll feel like they’re pretty terrible people, that their parents don’t love them and they’re no good at anything.
Sue: So you think parents focus too much on the bad aspects?
Sophie: And never on the good.
Sue: You don’t hear parents saying good things about their kids?
Sue: Not very often?
Sophie: No, not at all.
Sue: If a child does have some kind of flaw or a trait that a parent thinks is a bit of a worry and a parent can’t point it out to the child – she can’t say such things as you’ve got to pull up your socks, you can’t sit in your room all the time being shy, you’ve got to get out there and do things – how is that child ever going to change?
Sophie: I think a parent has to focus on the good things and tell a child what a good job they’re doing and trust that the child will sort those other things out and want to try and do better.
Sue: Do you think that it’s the feeling of being loved that changes people rather than criticism?
Sophie: Definitely, a lot more is done by love.
Sue: We’ve talked before about how powerful love is. When I’m loved, when I feel really loved, I want to be a better person. But if people criticise me, I feel like giving up. I end up feeling like I can never do anything right.
Sophie: And that’s not really the way to encourage someone to do better.
Sue: So maybe when a child has some sort of fault, we make very little of it and concentrate on the good things?
Sophie: Yes and who knows? Maybe that fault will turn out to be not as bad as a parent might have originally thought.
Sue: Yes, sometimes, negative traits…
Sophie: … end up being what’s special about a child.
Sue: That’s right. A parent may complain about a child being stubborn, for example – they won’t do anything they’re told – but maybe later on in life that stubbornness will help them stand up for something really important. They won’t give in to peer pressure. Stubbornness could just be knowing one’s own mind and having the strength to stick with it, not being swayed by other people especially when those other people aren’t doing or saying what is right. We wouldn’t criticise that, would we?
Sue: Even being quiet and not very outgoing could be positive, couldn’t it?
Sophie: Yes, if you’re quiet, you’ve got more time to listen and you can understand other people better. Being quiet means that you pick up on more things in the world because you’re not always talking.
Sue: More sensitive? You might end up more compassionate?
Sue: So there are two ways of looking at things, aren’t there? A fault may not actually be a fault. Also, some negative traits, I feel, are a result of a need.
Sophie: A need for love.
Sue: Maybe a child who is angry and bad tempered might be trying to tell people something.
Sophie: It could be the fact that their parents are always negative about things and they don’t feel the love they want to feel.
Sue: I think when children misbehave, it’s not a sign they’re bad people. It’s a sign that they have some kind of need that isn’t being recognised. They need more love and attention. What does a parent usually do when a child misbehaves?
Sophie: Tells them off and punishes them.
Sue: And then takes away things that they feel are treats, gives them less attention…
Sophie: In reality, maybe it’s more attention they need.
Sue: They get it the wrong way around.
Sue: I’ve made a podcast called How All Kids Are Amazing. Do you agree with those words?
Sophie: Yes, everyone in the whole world is amazing.
Sue: It’s the differences between children that make them unique and amazing, isn’t it? We shouldn’t want to change our children so that they are like everyone else.
Sophie: Yes, that’s why some people get upset about peer pressure and how it tries to conform children to be ‘normal’.
Sue: So, in general, people don’t value the differences. They expect you to be made in one mould, and maybe parents find it hard to stand up for their children if they are different. Maybe another reason parents want to change their children is to make it easier for them to get through life.
Sophie: Maybe parents don’t realise that being unique could also help them get through life later on.
Sue: We don’t know what sort of role our children are going to have, what special mission they’ve been given, that type of thing?
Sophie: Yes, so if you change a child from what makes them unique, they could take a completely different turn in life and miss all the opportunities their uniqueness could have given them.
Sue: In some ways, it’s easier for a parent to parent a child who falls in the ‘normal’, ‘middle of the road’ category…
Sophie: … a child that people don’t look at and say that one is different.
Sue: Society doesn’t always accept people who are different, do they?
I have some other extracts from episode 70: Trust, Respect, and Love Unconditionally. I might post some more another day.
Images: I took these photos of Sophie a couple of weeks ago when we were scouting for a new music video location to film Imogen singing Arwen’s Song.