Before you try assuming, try askingIn a poor section of town a mom and pop mercantile suffered a devastating fire. Foul play was suspected and when the police combed the area they found three people who had seen someone they thought might have started the fire.
The first was another store owner across the street who reported seeing a black man wearing a suit and brimmed hat standing in front of the store just minutes before it began to burn. He was fidgeting and was carrying a paper bag with something large in it. Moments later he was gone.
The second eyewitness, a neighborhood doctor, saw a young man dressed like a "street punk" he was wearing a chain and had a tattoo of a burning skull on his upper arm. He was wearing a T-shirt that read, SMOKE DOPE. He disappeared into the alley just before the fire started.
A neighborhood priest noticed that a homeless man, who resided on a pile of old mattresses, in the alley beside the store, had been staggering around the store area prior to the fire. In the past, he had been seen falling asleep with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
Who started the fire?After the facts were gathered, it was discovered that the store owner had neglected to turn off the heater before leaving for the evening, and a bundle of papers, laying near the heater had caught fire.
We are often persuaded or compelled by our unconscious thinking patterns, biases, and prejudices. It is important as parents, that we are aware of the biases and prejudices that affect our judgment. We must never assume that we "know" something or that we are "right" without knowing all the facts. We must also attempt to have our judgments affirmed by another person to see if we are on the mark.
How often have you heard someone recall having been wrongly accused by a teacher of cheating, ending their remarks with "I still don't like that teacher." It would be a tragedy to carry that kind of anger and pain for so many years; it is an even greater tragedy when, because of ill-formed judgments, parents and children lack love for one another. Yet we are often quick to jump to conclusions about our children or their peers.
When a child breaks curfew we might be angry or consumed with worry by the time they return home. However, we are not able to make an accurate assessment of the situation until we have heard all the facts. If we are to act objectively we need to delay our assessment until we have heard from the child. We need to separate excuses from facts and hear out the child. Then we can work with them to determine how to improve the situation in the future. This type of response will increase trust and the child will be more willing to be open with you in the future.
As parents, we need to teach our children correct principles so that they can govern themselves. Giving our children freedom to govern themselves means that we support them and that we counsel with them to be helpful rather than judging or controlling them. If we have taught the child correct principles, then we have done all we can do. They will ultimately make their own choices and grow up to be individuals. And that is as it should be. Forcing and controlling a child is draining to the parents and causes rebellion in the child. In the end, neither is happy. Weather we want to believe it or not, our job is not to make our children become who we want them to be. It is to provide them a safe, moral and loving environment where they can grow and develop their own individuality and become who they are meant to be.
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