Are You Listening to Me?
Updated: Aug 8, 2018
"Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." —James Baldwin
When I was a child, my father felt that the best way to improve my chances of becoming a productive citizen was to lecture me. He was fond of very long sermons on how my poor science grade, for example, was inextricably related to the slovenly condition (his words) of my room. I thought that I had a poor grade in science because I hadn't studied, but I thought it best not to offer that as a plausible explanation.
As parents, we want our children to avoid the mistakes we made, so we employ lecture as a deterrent. The problem is that they can't really hear us, because the best lessons in life are learned from experience. Although I must admit that sometimes a lecture can be very helpful retroactively: "Oh, that's what mom meant when she told me not to…."
To date, I am able to recall very few of my father's lectures, but I do hold dear the memory of wandering into his study one Saturday night. With his glasses perched on the end of his nose, I found my father in deep thought, preparing a real sermon (the church kind) for the next morning. I always thought it was just his natural talent that carried him through on Sundays, but it was clear that preparation had a lot to do with it. I can't help but think that my college ritual of doing my homework on Saturday nights wasn't somehow influenced by my father— I did buy glasses just like his in my freshman year after all.
Most of what we dislike about our children's behaviors are learned from us or other adults they are trying to emulate. And in the end, it's not that lecturing your children is a complete waste of time, but it would be a wise parent who thinks about what they're teaching when they are not preaching.