I remember as a young person being picked up by a friend’s mother with a small group of friends to take us to his place. They drove an old ford falcon with a bench seat in the middle. His mother was a fiery woman whose temper was well known to all his friends. Most of us had felt her wrath at one stage or another. Scott (my friend) was also very aware of his mum’s short fuse and had learnt when to be careful. She was clearly irritated that she had to pick us up and Scott was aware that he had to be very wary not to say anything to set her off.
He started with a fairly innocuous comment, a bit hot today, isn’t it mum?
Well that was the spark that lit her fuse and she quickly exploded, Well if you didnt run around all day like b——y idiots then you wouldn’t be so hot would you! Next minute when trying to change gears when going around the corner, she found that Scott had inadvertently put his foot under the clutch pedal. The gears were well crunched while Scott was trying to get his foot from under the clutch pedal. Well that started the next barrage of abuse, Scott was called a b——y idiot, what are you doing. Move your stupid b———y foot.
We thought it was quite funny especially because it was Scott and not us receiving the abuse. But, we were also relieved when we got to Scott’s place just in case we were next in line to be abused. When we arrived Scott nicely said to his mum, Thanks for taking us home mum.
I think that she was taken aback that he hadn’t gotten upset at all and that he was still being polite. She said, well make sure you don’t come into the house.The words sound gruff but her tone had changed and we knew that we were welcome.
At the time I never questioned what Scott’s mum had done but when I think about it she was sending some very powerful messages to him. Her short fuse made her say things to her children that were extremely derogatory to them. Scott was not an idiot and in fact I heard that he went on to become an engineer.
Tony Campolo a popular youth speaker tells how Jewish mothers relate to their children and compares what they say to what the Italian mother’s say. Jewish mothers are always telling their kids how great that they are going to be someday. Whereas the Italian mothers in his neighbourhood would predict a gloomy future for their kids. He commented that is it any wonder that the Jewish kids tended to be such high achievers.
Steve Biddulph in Raising Happy Children, lists the following reasons why parents give less than helpful messages to children.
You repeat what was said to you
- Our foundation for parenting is our parents
- I’m sure we have all at some time heard ourselves saying something to our kids and thought, Geez that’s what my dad said to me.
Other parents try to do the opposite to what their parents did:
- You thought it was the right thing to do
- Attitudes to raising children have change from our parents time. Once a parents role was seen as correcting their children
- We now consider our childrens needs for self esteem and encouragement far more. Mainly because we are aware of the damage that we can do.
We are stressed out
- Financial pressure, tiredness, loneliness or boredom can all contribute to negative responses to our children.
- Children can be an easy vent for our tension.
If this is the most important job that I have in this life then I need to think very carefully about what I am communicating to the most important people in my life.