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Our Children Are Listening

June 11, 2010

Last week Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game that he will not get credit for in the record books due to an incorrect call by the umpire Jim Joyce on what would have been the last out of the game.  The events that occurred in the aftermath of this game were truly extraordinary. The umpire admitted his error and apologized to Galarraga. The Tigers’ manager defended Joyce and spoke of these type of errors as being part of the game. Galarraga was gracious and sympathetic to how horrible Joyce must have felt for blowing the call.

This was in stark contrast to much of what I observe at some of my daughter’s softball games. I can hardly stand to be there sometimes with the argumentative behaviors and expressions of anger displayed by some of the coaches and parents. Some of these adults are stunning models of how to be disrespectful.

And then people wonder why kids today lack respect. Hmmm. I recently saw this quote from Robert Fulghum that sums it up quite nicely, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

In the book Childhood Unbound which I recently reviewed, the author writes eloquently about this very issue. If you are struggling with feeling disrespected by your tweens or teens, I encourage you to read it.

But what about toddlers and preschoolers? Most young children are more motivated to please their parents than older kids, but rude speech and behaviors in the younger years is not uncommon. How do young children learn to behave in this way? They’re not likely involved in the world of organized sports to witness too many adults yelling at umpires. However, they likely have many adults in their lives. My 8 year old daughter and I were recently on a field trip where many other schools were also present. We were taken aback when we witnessed some preschool teachers yelling angrily at their students.

While we hope that most preschool teachers or daycare providers do not speak to their young charges in angry tones too often, we need to be aware of how the adults in our children’s lives speak and behave. How do they talk to the children directly? How do they interact with store clerks and other people out in the world? How do parents speak with their parenting partners?

If we want to raise respectful, peaceful, compassionate children, we need to be mindful of how we and the other adults in our children’s lives model these qualities. Let’s hope there are lots more Armando Galarraga-like models out there.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2010 7:48 am

    Thank you for your insightful post. Even babies are receiving the effects of the kind of communication you describe, and in some ways are even more susceptible. They have no filters or reference points and absorb all the negativity.

    Thanks for raising awareness of something we as the adults do have control over, and therefore need to carefully consider and address.

    Ingrid Johnson

  2. drcuneo permalink*
    June 11, 2010 7:57 am

    Thank you for pointing that out Ingrid. You’re so right about infants absorbing negativity in their environment!

  3. June 12, 2010 11:52 am

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Ironically, I have a draft post going that speaks about parental behavior in sports. I’m often amazed. You’re so correct that they are listening, watching and trying on those things that we do in front of them.

    • drcuneo permalink*
      June 12, 2010 12:25 pm

      Thanks Tammy. I’d love to read your post when it’s up. Let me know!

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