Open my mouth and my mother fell out!
Any parent can attest to how complicated and stressful parenting can be. And even without the ‘advice’ from family and friends where different generational values and traditions create competing expectations on how children are to be raised.
As a single mother, raising a son I am often challenged by how differently a boy perceives his environment and wonder if I am talking about the right things at the right time. I imagine it is much easier raising girls, having your own personal experience to guide you, knowing very well what every girl goes through.
For me building a bond with my son started the day I learned I was pregnant, I wanted him to hear the unconditional love of his mother’s voice before he entered this world. So I spoke to him in the womb, sharing my life in a way and reminding him that I could not wait for his arrival. As an infant he was a ‘talkative’ child, and a delight to family and friends. As he grew older, he became quieter and earned a family nickname – The Shy Guy!
As he entered school, my circle of influence shrank and his friends filled that space. He shared more with them and avoided sharing some of his school life with me. Yet, I have kept our conversations going and made it a point to show him that I am always on his side, in his corner. We can and do disagree on a number of things however I will always be his biggest supporter.
I think how we communicate with our sons, determines how they communicate with us and with women later in their lives. I make it a point to listen to his viewpoint and give him the time to explore and express his feelings, without interrupting him. I do not need to agree with them nor do I feel the need to rationalize or explain them. By observing and listening to him, I gain insight into the person he is becoming, and it highlights some aspects of his understanding that I need to help him expand on.
I think the biggest distinction for me has been learning that what he does not necessarily reflect who he is – correct the behaviour and not the boy. It is really easy to forget this when your son has broken a sentimental gift of yours, open your mouth and before you know it you’re telling him, he’s clumsy or he has no respect! Those personal messages speak to who he is, and they can leave him feeling that you have found fault with the person he is and not with his actions.
Teaching your son about respect, starts with you. Show your son respect, through the words you use when you speak to him, through your actions and conversations with his absent father, extended family or simply the stranger that bumped you in the mall. I want my son to engender respect from others and more importantly to demonstrate respect for himself. And whilst this is not as simple as it seems, I do remind myself that these lessons take time and they remain part of our daily conversations.