Last week I read a great article called The One Question You Should Ask Your Child Tonight . And so naturally that night during dinner, I posed it to my girls:
How can I help you feel loved?
I had to smile at the certain predictability of my kids– I knew one would think this was a super meaningful discussion and she was happy to be having it while the other would start to act a little goofy and feel uncomfortable at the vulnerability of it all. I gave them a couple options to break the ice and from there it was smooth sailing.
The best part of asking a question like this?
The answers are deliciously surprising and simple.
I feel loved when you call me love names. When you rub my back. When you randomly text me. When you tell stories from when I was a baby. When we go to Starbucks together. When we laugh and joke around. When we get in your bed and read or talk. When you help me decide what to wear.
It turns out the things kids want most are the easiest, most inexpensive luxuries we already possess: Time and attention.
To be seen and heard.
And if you’re a parent, you’ve surely witnessed the acting out that comes from a child who hasn’t been seen or heard deeply enough. They find unhealthy ways to make it happen and force your attention on them.
It’s a few day later now and in the wake of the tragedy in France, I’ve been dialoguing and debating the refugee crisis online with strangers. During one such conversation, there was one man in particular who was extremely insulting, aggressive and downright mean to everyone. He was so blatantly condescending it almost became comical.
But you begin to wonder about a person who acts so openly hostile to others. And though I was frustrated, it actually made me feel a little sad. Here we were, the lot of us, feeling a little raw and thoughtful and desperately trying to make sense of how to approach such tenuous world affairs–with so much at stake– and this man was being so childish.
And somehow, I thought of the article I had read and I started to wonder…What would make this man feel loved?
I sat wondering if perhaps his entire life he had not felt seen or heard and behaving this way was the only time people paid attention to him. (Because as is common in these situations, the attention unfortunately drifts from the matter at hand to the jackass attacking everyone.)
It was a clear illustration to me of what happens when unheard, unseen little people grow up into unseen, unheard big people.
It’s ugly. And harsh. And destructive.
And so I’m going to ask my kids from time to time what they need to feel loved. And I’m going to ask the older one too, even though he’s out of the house now. Because over the years, things didn’t always go so well around here and I’m not so sure everyone always felt seen and heard.
I’m telling you this because I believe it’s never too late. When you know better, you do better. It takes courage and vulnerability to ask, but I’m betting the rewards are going to be worth the risk.
And I’m going to believe that it’s healing for parents of any age,
to ask children of any age
how to love them better.
And I’m sending hope and light and goodness to the mean guy on the Internet. I hope someone sees you and hears you today, sir. And that it softens your heart and changes your life.