Uh-oh! Aunt Jeannie is about to let little Mattie make a mess with her crayons. Should I intervene or criticize Aunt Jeannie? Or what if my sister is letting her yard go and maybe irritating her neighbors? Should I give her my well-meaning advice?
Actually, no. On so many levels, and in so many personal and social situations, understanding and respect for others are more important than making our opinions known about how things should be done. This is how we get along with others and are there to help them.
I was noticing how Alex and Andrea are coaching Alana, and they seem to be trying to apply this philosophy at the level of a two-year-old. They are enthusiastic about her excitement and the things she likes, and they show empathy when she is sad or tired or simply struggling. They tell her what’s wrong when she throws crayons, spills milk or talks back disrespectfully. But they try to explain, on a two or three-year-old’s level, why not to commit the offense. And they offer to help her make things right (e.g., offer to help wipe up the milk). They warn of a time out if she does not settle down and try to do what’s right. If all of this fails, a time-out ensues. But they also tell her they love her. Most of the time, I admit, they try to let her have her own way if possible. In other words, they are not trying to illustrate that life is rough and we need to get over it, and that is their decision as parents.
But what I value about the effort is what I think we all should value in our interaction with others. True, a few things friends or family might think of doing are so dangerous, illegal or unacceptable that we feel the need to speak out. (And caretakers have to intervene a lot more with a little child.) But the rest of the time, we should try to understand and respect what the person feels and what in their experience causes them to feel this way. This means observing and accepting instead of judging, criticizing, and being impatient. The reward is that we get to know others better and make them feel cared for and accepted. And they are likely to care for and accept us as well.
Observations on the subjects of friends, family, country, cultures and nature.