Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be the child of a therapist? My parents were wonderful but the lessons they imparted regarding interpersonal relationships was lacking…what’s the word…healthy communication, love and compassion. I decided when my daughter was little that I would not pass those sick nuggets along to my kids and would practice what I preach. My kids do not get a sugar coated cliché riddled sermon. They get the facts. They get the ‘whys’ followed by the ‘why nots’. A good example was to explain the most important rule of interpersonal relationships:
Do no harm
Children use friendship like a weapon- ‘You aren’t my friend anymore’.
Children say mean things without understanding the repercussions.
Our response to these childish behaviors? We usually do not explain how these things hurt others. We usually say things like, ‘don’t say things like that’ but fail to explain that their words hurt people. These hurts stay with us for a very long time.
My kids have learned that their words can hurt. My kids have learned that when they say certain things, those words can deeply wound other people. My kids learn that the consequence to hurting a person is that you can scar them. Teaching a child karma is not exactly easy because their understanding of time is limited. As they get older, they understand the concepts of a long time. Regardless, this lesson will serve them well in the future.
In interpersonal relationships we have this idea that if we are experiencing an emotion that this gives us license to say whatever we want to say. A simple, ‘I’m sorry I was angry’ is the equivalent of ‘erase, erase’. But it isn’t, is it? We all have been the target of venting and it is painful. We know that the words are exacerbated by unhinged emotions but they still hurt and no simple apology would wipe away that pain.
Our words can hurt. Our words can heal. We teach our children to use their words to heal and never hurt. This does not mean that they keep their feelings inside; they simply do not use their words to hurt people just because they are hurting. It isn’t nice.
Interpersonal relationships of any kind can be a wonderful source of support in someone’s life or the root of all their problems. By teaching our kids to create healthy relationships we are ensuring that they will be loved and supported in all their endeavors when we aren’t around. I think that is worth the effort, don’t you?