Every individual act we perform is for a profit or a gain. Plus the fact we always without exception act according to our “highest value” at the moment. And because our values by their very nature are constantly changing, we frequently act or react to a variety of situations in different ways at different times.

It’s part of the natural order of things in this Universe, for each species to reproduce itself. For the homo sapiens species, we give birth to children. I really don’t know if it’s fortunate or unfortunate, none arrive with a book of instructions. But the fact of the matter is, few if any really know how to successfully parent our offspring.

The major yardstick we have is reference to how we were raised. In this connection, our parents began as we have, by trial and error. There are psychologists and psychiatrists and lots of books to read on childrearing. However mostly, rearing children on a day by day basis is pretty much by trial and error, based upon our individual experiences of our own childhood and what our parents taught us, plus how they treated us.

It would help us in childrearing, if we stopped to realize, every human being acts to achieve what they want. Children are no different, their actions are based upon what they want.

If our actions are always based upon our highest value at the moment to obtain what we individually want, then we cannot be self-sacrificing. Because whatever we do to or for our children, or anyone else, is according to what we want at the moment.

Personally, I had teenaged children when I had another child. One I raised a bit differently, because I could recognize some of the mistakes I had made with the first ones. I was never into the “forced sharing” syndrome, so pervasive in school and church teachings, but more aware of just how territorial children are over things which belong to them. Therefore with my last son, I could articulate and be more specific, by telling him that which belonged to him was his to do with as he chose. If he wanted to share, it was ok and if he chose not to, that also was ok. If he decided to destroy that which belonged to him, he could do that also, but pointed out it might not be replaced. I specifically taught about property ownership.

It was interesting to observe voluntary sharing, when a child knows they are in control of that which they own. Currently I have a 4-year old grandson, who has his own room, filled with toys and books when he visits. Recently a 3-year old visited to play with him and he did not want her to touch anything. I reminded him that was quite alright to feel and act that way, but reminded him, when he visited her, she could refuse to allow him to play with her things. He apparently thought it over because about an hour later, without any further mention of it, he decided on his own to selectively share a few things.

Obviously changing his values based upon his best interests, considering his desires to play with her toys when he visited her.
Decided to share not for her benefit, but consideration for what he wanted when he visited her.

I have a daughter who is a foster parent, and very disturbing to observe the number of abused and mistreated children taken to DFACS, taken away from abusive parents.

In the hierarchy of needs for all of us, children included, is recognition, praise and acts from others which make us feel important. Everyone wants to feel important, and acts of yelling, screaming, criticism and abuse towards children changes who they are. Accordingly it is out pictured in their behavior sooner or later.

Everyone wants to be famous. Never so clearly presented as the new movie on the life of Dillinger, the famous bank robber during the thirties. Some acquire recognition and become famous via different thinking and actions. Some become famous via positive creativity, i.e., inventions, artistry, writing and etc. The same thing drives the bank robber and the inventor. To be famous and to be recognized. The manner in which they achieve their feeling of importance is different, but the desire is the same. Freud called it the desire to be “great.”

The desire for importance seems to be inbred in us from a small child. When we recognize this in our role of childrearing, it makes a difference in how we treat children. Instead of condemning and criticizing them, we can help lift them up to their potential of being important. By recognizing they want appreciation, recognition to enhance their desire to feel important.

One of the most moving and profound things I have ever read when it comes to childrearing is this little piece by W. Livingston Larned, entitled “Father Forgets.” I hope you copy and reread when you have the urge to yell at and criticize children:


“Listen son, I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek, and the brown curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen in your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are the things I was thinking, son. I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started of to play, and I made for my train, you turned and waved your hand and called, “Goodbye Daddy,” and I frowned and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back.”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road, I spied you, down on your knees playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive–and if you had to buy them, you would be more careful!! Imagine that, son from a father!!

Do you remember later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want,” I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards, that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding – this was my reward for your being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much from youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me goodnight. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside and knelt in the darkness, and I have knelt there ashamed.

It is feeble atonement: I know you would not understand these things, if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy!! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy–a little boy.”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday, you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much–too much.”

I was prompted to write this article, because just about a week ago, I raised my voice to my four-year old grandson, Prince William. He had spread his toys out on the floor in the TV room and I tripped over one of his toy cars. Telling him he had to be more careful in my raised tone.

After he left, I felt badly raising my voice at him, after all he was just happily playing with his toys. Then I recalled reading “Father Forgets,” reminding myself, Grand Mama forgets. The next day when he came, I gave him a hug and apologized to him for raising my voice, and assured him I would not do it again.

The following day when he came, he pulled out a box of toys and began playing on the floor, and said,”I remember what you said about yelling, and I will be careful.”

I could just sense his feeling of importance at being recognized for his consideration not to strew toys again in the middle of the floor, but to carefully play with them in one corner area of the room.

I think it was Burns who said: “Oh what good ere ‘twould do us to see ourselves as others see us.” To that I might add, especially children.



EMAIL: annecleveland@bellsouth.net

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