Smack! Smack! Smack! That’s the sound of my wife slapping herself silly in the middle of the night. Is she crazy? No! My sweet wife, Becca is trying to rid herself of mosquitos.
Even though I can sleep under the covers and am quite immune to the darn mosquitoes, I can hear the pesky things buzzing around. And it’s hard to sleep knowing that your wife is suffering because well, you screwed up. How did I screw up?
I’ll tell you in a minute. But first, let me paint the context for you.
It’s January in southern India. Becca and I are visiting my folks for a few months. The very evening we got got here, my dad told me that I should shut the door to the balcony at 6pm sharp every evening to keep the mosquitoes away. And everyday since he’s been repeating his mosquito mantra. Have I been heeding his advice?
Why children don’t listen to their parents
Given my history with my dad, I still act like a teen around him. And since when teens take their parents’ advice? My old man’s looney theory? “If you shut the door between 6pm and 8pm, the mosquitoes won’t bother you.”
Really? First, the teen inside me doesn’t believe it. Second, the rebellious teen likes the door open. Third, it’s hard for the teen to take unsolicited advice, especially from a parent.
So I listen, but rarely follow my old man’s advice. Teens everywhere, it seems, are hardwired to reject all parental advice. “Be careful,” “Save money” “Study hard” “Be nice”… is the kind of stuff you get to listen to when you’re little. After a while of this, the child’s brain simply tunes all parental advice—no matter how well-intentioned.
And if this parental advice is too frequent (and/or the parent has lost credibility in the child’s eyes), such advice is much like the pesky mosquitoes buzzing around your head in the still of the night.
I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that this article is neither about mosquitoes nor about India. It’s about parenting. As a rule, all parents are overflowing with “great” advice for their children—even when the children are grown-up. And again, as a rule, most teens don’t heed parental advice. This strange phenomenon transcends cultures and spans the entire globe.
How do you get your children, particularly teens, to listen to you?
Sometimes, parental advice is absolutely stellar and right; it’s right on the money. Sometimes, it’s plain wrong. Right or wrong, most parental advice gets usually ignored—and hence quite useless. But parents being parents keep dishing it out anyway.
Part of the reason parents put out so much advice is because they love their children and want the best for them. And part of the reason children don’t listen to their parents is because a constant stream of advice is, well, boring. Who wants to be cafeful when you want to have fun? Besides, teens know f-all. Don’t they?!
Are you a parent and want your child to do well? Don’t want your child to suffer needlessly or get hurt? Then listen up.
How to get your child to listen to you
While your intentions are good and noble and those of a loving parent, if you truly want your child to fare better, you must first grow up yourself. You must learn to back off and let your child take the occasional “fall.” Allow your child to screw-up. Let him make mistakes. If you keep rushing in to keep your child from falling, he’ll never fall. And if he never falls, he’ll learn.
Ever since Becca and I got here, my dad’s been looking out for us. Every evening around 6pm he comes in my room to shut my balcony door. Except for last night, that is. For whatever reason, dad forgot to do it last night. This meant that I was left to fend for myself. Which I did admirably by chugging beer out in the balcony with the door wide open. By the time I shut the door, plenty of big fat mosquitoes got in, unbeknownst to me.
Now you know why my poor wife is covered in mosquito bites. Mosquitoes like sweet things, I joke with her, but will I ever forget last night’s screw-up?
Dad no longer needs to remind me to shut the balcony door each night. Thanks to what happened last, I can’t forget. Now, come 6pm every evening, I’m on it like a hawk.
My dad’s advice was falling on deaf ears. He knew that I wasn’t listening, which is why he kept repeating himself. Now if my dad were a smart parent, he’d have told me his looney mosquito philosophy, shut the door once to make a point—then backed off. One evening of mosquite hell is all it’d take for anyone to come to their senses.
As a parent, do you find yourself trying too hard to prevent your children from hurting themselves?
Do you do everything you can to to keep your children from making the same mistakes you made in life?
Be a smart parent—and back off. Find the courage to let your child take the occasional fall. It may be the best thing that ever happened to him/her. A little booboo will teach your child more than all the great advice in the world.
Image Source: graphicshunt.com