Positively Communicating to My Seven Month Old Son
One of my biggest pet peeves has always been this situation: I’m out in public and see a stranger compliment a young child or baby. Then the parent responds to the stranger with, “Well you can take him home with you if you like. He’s a handful. Nah, he’s pretty good… most of the time.”
I’m not a cursing kind of guy, but just thinking about that scenario makes me want to. (It also makes me want to break a Two and a Half Men DVD. But mainly because I hate Two and a Half Men.)
The truth is, I know how to be effectively sarcastic. After all, I write a weekly Bachelor/Bachelorette recap every Monday night. And it’s always very snarky.
But I have a big beef with being sarcastic towards babies and children. I despise back-handed compliments. A compliment barbed in an insult or complaint is not a compliment at all. Constructive criticism is one thing, but sarcastic comments never motivate anyone to improve anything. Instead, they break a person down.
I worship positive communication; in my marriage, with my friends and family, and even with my infant son who can’t even speak legitimately.
What he hears me say does matter, despite how young he is. Because if nothing else, I am setting up a pattern of how I will communicate with him as he matures and is able to understand what I am saying.
My wife came up with a good system: We don’t speak to our son in a tone or with words that we would not use to speak to each other. Because our son is both my wife and me.
Sure, at times our son can frustrate us; especially when we don’t know what he wants or when we can’t get him to sleep. But it’s a matter of reminding ourselves that A) he didn’t ask to come into this world, B) he can’t communicate how he feels by using words, and C) he’s not trying to offend us.
It’s a matter of feeling sorry for him during these times he frustrates us most. He needs an “ah, you poor baby” instead of “go to sleep already; you’re driving me crazy!”
Words matter. They can destroy just as easily as they can heal. And even for a cheap laugh with a stranger or a friend, I refuse to sell out.
My son is a reward and a joy. Not a joke or a burden. As his father, I will not always be able to protect him from the cruel and destructive things people will certainly say to him in his lifetime. But sure as Shazbot, I can be confident he doesn’t hear them from me.