Hate No More
I used to hate the lot of them.
It’s true. I used to get annoyed easily when there were children around me; the running around, the noise and sound, the mess that entailed, the chaos from what seemed to be tranquil. That was in my teens.
I believe God changed me over the many years; from what I used to hate, I began to appreciate.
I liked how some of the conversations went with them.
I liked how silly sometimes they could get.
I liked how real they seemed to be. There’s no hidden agenda unlike dealing with some adults (certainly not you, k?), or even with teens (not you as well).
I was exposed to different groups of children during my teaching days. I liked them. In fact there were a number of occasions I found myself revisiting those memories. I thank God for the experiences gained when I was teaching; how school rascals turned into better people, how the impossible seeing a glimpse of hope once again.
There were also times I bumped into some of them when I was out window shopping, and there was this voice that called out from a distance “Mr. Abel!”. I turned and noticed someone with a rather familiar face smiling at me, only then to realize how much a man, or a lady they have grown up to be. I can’t describe exactly how it felt, but it sure felt good. And I felt old.
Two weeks ago, Christine and I hosted a group meeting at our place. There were 15 adults, and 14 children. It’s not easy to create a conducive environment for meaningful discussion with the adults especially when you have 14 children who seemed to be the main cast of “Infinity War“.
It’s not easy.
If there is one thing I learnt from teaching that applies to children (or even people in general), it will be “Ground Rules”.
Ground Rules, is a set of “rules” (can be either written or best verbally expressed), put in place (not just for the sake of having one and forgotten over time), to be understood, accepted and practiced by a certain group of people (in this case, children). There were three verbs used, and they are significant.
When there are children, and if the place is new, it is crucial that you take time to run through the Ground Rules before anything else!
3 pointers, how you can approach this… E
You can’t always push the blame on children and accuse them of misbehaving.
To be all fair, did they understand in the first place what was expected of them? Was there any effort to first lay the foundation, before you spend time correcting the motion, often to find the child not giving you the cooperation? Or even throwing a tantrum?
You got to tell them what is expected of them.
But before you do that, before you start running the Ground Rules down their throats, first you need to have them at all ears, listening. It defeats the whole purpose of having Ground Rules when the majority of your target audience isn’t listening.
So I prepared a room for the children to play in, let’s call it the “play room”. Most of them were told before hand to bring some toys and share it with the other children. So when the group meeting started, being the host, I went into the “play room”, and I did the Ground Rules with them.
They were children of different age and sizes. Different interests and level of maturity as well. Some loved just reading the book they brought, while the girls sat in a circle and started talking, and there was a group of younger children who were busy talking and playing at the other corner of the room.
So It Began…
“Uncle Abel needs your help…” Only caught the attention of some… followed by “I still hear people talking…” I repeated the two sentences a few more times and sure enough, the more matured children started to “Shhh!!!”
All came to order in less than 2 minutes… So I shared… Only 3 points.
- Uncle Abel needs your help to take care of the house.
- Do not run in the house.
- Do not lock the doors.
3 is a good start. I wasn’t too ambitious on this because as the Ground Rules list goes longer, the less effective it will be.
With the growing multimedia industry, there are many things children are exposed to, and these things were caught watching the movies on the television (or even at the theaters), the videos created on YouTube, etc. Some times not all they have seen and mimicked, are good.
It came to your attention of the bad influence, being a good parent yourself, you tried your best to stop them from doing it again. But somehow, your efforts seemed to be futile. There were also times you took drastic measures like taking the router away, taking their hand phones away (IKR, children nowadays have their own hand phones with data plans) and instead of making things better, it got worse.
Explain why you are doing the things you do which may seem to be irrational (to them, not to us since we’re always right hahaha). The “I say, you do” method doesn’t work all the time especially with “smarter” children nowadays.
One thing I noticed over the years, as the technology in communication advances, the scale tips over resulting to poorer interpersonal skills or communication. We don’t talk anymore… Not exactly the way Charlie Puth meant… But I’m sure you can see around you a rising trend of families at the dining table glued to their mobile devices instead of talking to one another.
To elaborate more on what I meant…
Children would be off to school from morning till early afternoon. Then they will be sent for extra tuition or classes may it be computer classes, piano classes, ballet classes, swimming classes, etc. By the time they are done with the whole chunk of it, it should be around dinner. After which they will normally attend to their homework. And since they go to school in the morning, they will enter bed early as well.
As for parents, if we’re working, we’ll be at work from morning till evening, we’ll be home for dinner, and after dinner, normally we don’t feel like doing anything else but to sit on the sofa reading the newspapers, or watching the television, or helping your children with homework. And if you’re not working, you’d be caught busy sending the children from one place to another, cooking, cleaning, washing, etc.
If we were to compare the two routines above, the only time both children and their parent(s) meet together, would be in the car (lesser if they’re taking the bus or other means of transportation), at the dining table (lesser if daddy or mummy, or both have to stay back in the office to finish off some work or there’s a dinner meeting you have to attend to, even worse if the little that you have left is spent on the mobile devices), over homework (if you decide to help at all), or before bed (if bedtime stories are still suitable anymore).
There’s only so much time we are spending with our own children. What more with children who are not our own?
So, Uncle Abel explained to them…
- Uncle Abel needs your help to take care of the house because this house is not Uncle Abel’s and he is also helping someone to take good care of it.
- Do not run in the house because there are many sharp corners around in the house and Uncle Abel doesn’t want to see you fall and getting yourselves hurt.
- Do not lock the doors because Uncle Abel do not have the keys to the doors so if you are locked inside, you will die.
Another step to take after explaining the Ground Rules to them, is to ask them repeat what you said. And they did.
Once they repeat what you said, it’s like they have accepted the Ground Rules.
Don’t go all soft and lenient once you have set your Ground Rules.
Don’t compromise as well.
Once you show them the slightest hint that you’re not taking what you said seriously, you will be ignored easily because you no longer have the respect nor authority over them. I’ve been told and learnt that children has the tendency to test your limits. So yes, be firm, and they’ll understand soon enough, you meant well.
The meeting ended about an hour later, the children came out from the room and everyone moved to the kitchen for food. Being set free, it is a natural reaction to “run”. Uncle Abel just looked at them and the older children naturally helped me to enforce the Ground Rules saying, “Don’t run!”