Is CURIOUSITY part of your parenting strategy? It should be.
Your young son is happily playing in the backyard sandbox.. He has a shovel and a bucket and is focused on filling it up, and emptying it out. Over and over again he does the same thing. Suddenly, it starts to rain and you tell him to come inside. He refuses, not bothered by the rain at all. You end up picking him up out of the sandbox, and kicking and screaming you both enter your house.
As the adult, you assessed the situation and decided it was better for your son to come in out of the rain. You used your advanced thinking skills. You decided what was best for him.
What would have happened if you had been CURIOUS and thought more about what might be going on for your son? Put yourself in his shoes.
Picture yourself completely engaged in some lovely activity that you explore without disruption. Your sense of satisfaction and pure enjoyment are extremely high. You are discovering some life changing experience and then it starts to rain. You continue to explore, noticing how this new change adds an additional layer onto the discoveries. It has gone from being great to being incredible!
But wait. That is not what happened. Imagine at that moment when the rain began, your boss tells you to stop what you are doing this instant and return to the dry office space. How would you handle it? You might feel like having a bit of a tantrum yourself!
Our little people are just that – little people. If we can get curious about their world we can support them so much better.
Our little people don’t really care about our schedules, the weather, or really anything they are not interested in. When you are curious about their world and their thinking, everything changes.
Speed up a few years.
Your son comes home with his report card. It is far from what you were expecting. In almost every Grade 3 subject, he received an average mark or slightly below. You try to get him to tell you how this has happened. You tell him how disappointed you are – ‘and just wait until your father sees this!’ Your boy sulks off to his room and slams the door.
Now let’s look at the same situation but with CURIOSITY.
Your son hands you his report card, saying nothing. You notice his body language and sense something is off. You look at the report. You see the section on ‘Learning Skills and Work Habits’ and notice the lovely comments. You look in the academic section and see he has done worse than the previous semester – quite a bit worse. You ask him (with CURIOSITY) how he feels about the report. He tells you it is a terrible report and he must be stupid. You take a breath, and then direct his attention to the first section. You let him know that he should be proud of those comments and that those are real life skills that he is excelling in. You see him relax slightly. Then you ask (again with CURIOSITY) what he thinks happened this semester with his grades. You are surprised to hear some of the details he shares with you. It makes more sense. You ask him to think of some ways that if those same things happened next year, what are some things he could do to have a different outcome. Help him think about positive ways that things could work out. This puts you on the same team, but also puts your son in the driver’s seat.
When you respond with CURIOSITY you cancel out that knee-jerk reaction. It doesn’t mean your son is not held accountable, but that happens in an environment of understanding and collaboration. He keeps his sense of self-esteem intact and is empowered to make future choices that will have a different outcome.
Speed up a few more years.
Your 13 year old boy is in Middle School. You get a call from the Principal’s secretary asking you to come in for a meeting – now. Your son has been caught with five other boys skipping classes and smoking in the parking lot. All the boys’ parents have been called in. This is a first for you!
You arrive and are asked to wait until all parents have arrived. You can see all six boys inside the Principal’s office, some looking obviously upset, some looking far too cool to be upset. Your son looks very upset. When he looks up and sees you, you can tell he is fighting back the tears.
Once everyone is in the Principal’s office, a lengthy speech begins about how this might be the beginning of these boys going down a path of delinquency and this incident is being treated very seriously. All boys are banned from after school activities for 2 weeks and have a 2 day school suspension. You can’t wait to get out of there!
Once you and your son are in the car you look over at him. You see a broken little boy who made a big mistake. You decide to let the silence remain and drive home, both of you in your own thoughts. Before he gets out of the car, you ask him, ‘Are you OK? That was pretty harsh in there?’ That look he gives you says everything – it says he understands that you haven’t stopped loving him just because he screwed up. You let him know there needs to be a family meeting after dinner to talk about everything.
For some of the other boys, it didn’t work out this way. One mom stomped out and told her son to find his own way home and he should be scared of how his father is going to handle this! Another one scowled at her son and told him what a disappointment he is and there will be serious consequences for this.
The difference is whether the parent is judging and sentencing, or if the situation is approached with CURIOSITY. What was behind making those decisions? What am I missing? How can he learn from this, and make better choices in the future? What changes at home will support our son? What does our son need in order to be strong in the face of peer pressure? What consequences will really help hold him accountable and also have the impact you are wanting?
Every parent wants to do the best for their children, and they do that based on what they know. You need to educate yourself about the challenges your son is going to face as he is growing up in a world where the Boy Code still makes demands on how he feels and behaves. There are going to be times when you can’t understand why your boy does what he does. How you approach those times, when you are making decisions on how you are going to react, will drastically impact your connection to your son.
Looking at everything through a lens of CURIOSITY allows you to take a breath before you react. It sets in motion a range of possibilities that only your son can help you understand. It shows respect for the person he is and allows us to parent with more love and compassion. It doesn’t mean we don’t have high standards for our boys. It doesn’t mean we don’t hold them accountable for misbehaviour. It means we help guide them in understanding their world and the role they play in it, as well as the choices they can make.
Our boys need us to understand them and their emotional world. We can do that!