Through a kid’s eyes

As a child, the critical eye of my father seemed to follow me around wherever I went. — Arthur C Clarke

It’s quite easy for most fathers to look at their kids with a critical eye. And why not? There’s a lot riding on the outcome of your child’s development. There’s the nagging worry that you’re not doing your job well enough and that your child will develop “problems”. There’s also the fear of being judged as an incompetent or uninvolved father by others. And there’s the relentless presence of your children, making mistakes by the truckload while you watch.

They do make mistakes. Lots of them. And you have a number of choices about how you respond to those mistakes and how critical you are of your kids.

A different angle

If you’re a father who’s really honest with yourself, you’ll acknowledge that much of the judgment and criticism you have towards your kids is really your own critical judgment about yourself. It’s usually easier to be critical of your kids than to turn the spotlight on yourself, isn’t it? If you’re not careful as a father, you may run the risk of “teaching” your kids low self-esteem through your criticism and judgment of them.

Remember what it’s really like to be a child. For instance, can you imagine the formidable combination of having a brain that’s not yet able to exhibit emotional control and living in a house where you’re constantly told what to do by your parents? How many times do our kids get told what to do each day? How do you handle getting told what to do all the time? It’s a wonder that kids respond as well as they do.

How about teenagers?

How about your teens at home? They certainly should be able to respond better to parents based on their experience, right?

Not according to a study by the National Institute of Health. A large study of teenagers found as the brain develops, it trims away excess cells so that what’s left is more efficient. One of the last parts of the brain to complete this process is the prefrontal cortex, which controls planning, judgment and self-control. Many teen-agers have not experienced the “maturation” of this part of their brain.

What are your kids

capable of?

It can be quite easy for us to judge our kids harshly. But when you can begin to enter your child’s world and consider the developmental limitations that exist, the call to a kindler and gentler way is undeniable. Your kids will continue to make mistakes. Your job is to stay calm, love them, and gently show them a different way — and to be thankful that your kids are here to challenge you to become a more patient person.