My grandmother was a child-whisperer. Children loved her. Granted, it may have been partially because she could make the most awesome cinnamon buns and chocolate chip cookies ever. Mostly, it was because she was a child-whisperer. She could meet any child and within thirty seconds she would have them cooking with her and chatting away about everything.
I was blessed to have inherited the trait and you have heard my stories about children I don’t know pouring their hearts out to me within seconds of our introduction. I always wondered if there were some sort of weird scent or high pitched sound we gave off that sent children running to tell us everything.
About a year ago, I went to visit my grandparents not long before my grandmother died. As my daughter and I sat talking to my aunt, I noticed my aunt having the same sorts of conversations with my daughter that she used to have with me. I finally realized what the family secret is for being a child-whisperer. My grandmother, my aunt, and I respect children.
I remember just adoring my aunt when I was little. She was about eleven years older than I was, which definitely gave her the cool factor. It was more than that though. When other teenagers treated me like a little kid, she treated me as someone with something valuable to say. It wasn’t that she offered to let me hang out with her and her friends. She didn’t let me tag along on dates and she didn’t tell me her private teen business.
When she and I were together though, she treated me just like she would have treated her friends or an adult. She treated what I had to say with respect. She listened and participated fully in our conversations. She looked at me while I was talking and asked interested, appropriate questions. She gave real thought to my opinions and ideas even if hers were different. In short, she made me feel like I was valued and heard.
Adults will talk a lot about children respecting adults. My daughter will tell you that in many ways I am a very strict parent and teacher. Where I part from many adults though, is that I think the worst adult attitude is “children should be seen and not heard.”
To dedicate your children to God, you need to know their hearts. The only hope you will have of ever really knowing your child’s heart is for your child to share it with you. If he feels he will be mocked or ignored, that door to the heart closes. If she feels you are too distracted to care or that you think she is “stupid”, that window to her heart shuts. Sometimes those doors and windows are closed so tightly, your child may never open them to you again.
If you google for articles on gaining respect from other adults, almost every article will tell you that to get respect, you have to give respect to those around you. Many adults, however, appear to think children owe them respect no matter how rudely they treat the children. It seems the method most encouraged is to demand respect from them.
My advice to you the next time you talk with your child though, is to show him some respect. You may just become a child-whisperer yourself. More importantly, you may get a glimpse of your child’s heart. It is a lot easier to guide your children if you focus on their hearts as well as their actions. (When the two don’t match, pay more attention to the heart every time!) Try it and let me know what happens.