Earlier this week, my kids and I were at a public park, and a stranger spoke very rudely to my 7-year-old son. She might have been trying to be helpful–had a genuine concern for something he was doing–but her message was lost in the harshness of her exclamations. I didn’t know if she had kids and this was the way she routinely spoke to them. She did have dogs with her. And she spoke to them the same way. Harsh. Extreme. Shaming.
I wasn’t sure what her concern was. I didn’t know why she approached my son, what her intention was, or what she was trying to say. I was angry and defensive, and my son was upset. In that moment, the only thing either of us knew was the way we felt.
When your tone is harsh, walls go up.
When your words invoke feelings of shame, your message doesn’t get through.
When your approach is aggressive, your intention doesn’t matter.
Later that day, my son said something powerful. “Mom, you know when that lady yelled at me? Well, maybe her mom yelled at her a lot when she was a kid. Maybe she thinks that’s how you talk to people because that’s how people talked to her.”
“You know, Babe, I think you’re probably right.”
Fear prevents understanding.
When you treat others with respect and kindness and a sense of perspective, you break a cycle of poor communication and fear-based interactions.
When you treat a child with respect and kindness and a sense of perspective, they’ll grow up to do the same.
Start a new cycle.