This past weekend, we went to stay with my good friend, Josha in Vermont. It was a fabulous weekend with our friends visiting, talking and playing tourist. While in Vermont we visited the Fun Zone at Smugglers Notch. Upon entering the kids were told the rules by an employee who enforced them if a child wasn’t obeying. It one point, Ivy was climbing up a ladder and pretending to fall down. The employee came over and called all four kids over to him, where he proceeded to threaten to kick them out and spoke to them punitively and harshly, according to the kids.
We left shortly after and discussed what we should do at that point. We talked about options and I decided that I would go back in and talk with the man who treated our children disrespectfully. Josha shared this about our experience, “My favorite part was the conversation that happened with the kids in the car before you went back in. It was so great to explore everyone’s perception of what happened and to ask questions and to feel our way.” I agree with her that hearing the kids ideas and ways to handle it helped to fuel my decision to move forward in opening up dialog with the employee.
I was nervous approaching him. I smiled and asked if he wanted to hear some feedback. He said, “Yes.” I shared that the kids left feeling threatened and that he was being mean and I asked if that was his intention. He said that it wasn’t and seemed shocked that they felt that way. I shared that I wasn’t condoning disrespect of the rules that were in place, but his way of communicating was very authoritarian in nature and that he may have better results by being respectful and giving information, much in the same way he did with the adults there. While speaking with him, I was trying to feel love in my heart and not to slip into scolding or shaming him. I wanted to engage in meaningful conversation to help him understand the results of his communication style.
I have witnessed advocates approach people who have been disrespectful towards children with a very authoritarian approach, scolding the offender and yelling at them for their cruelty. While I can appreciate calling someone out when they are being cruel, the common approach seems hypocritical and counterproductive to me. Being respectful and kind in our actions toward others, especially those who we find fault in is a more aware level of practicing what we preach. This is hard though, because while most people get the whole respect toward children, practicing respect for everyone we come in contact with can be a bigger challenge.
I explained to him that treating children with respect and kindness is a much more effective way of working in partnership with the patrons of the Fun Zone. I also said that if he was treated with threats and disrespect as a child, that I was truly sorry and that he didn’t deserve that. He looked down with my words and I shared that there is another way, a gentler, kinder way to be with children. He thanked me for the conversation and we parted, smiling at one another.
You can’t make a difference in this world while being cruel to others – no matter how justified you feeling in doing so. Even if someone is cruel to your children, you make a much bigger impact by living the kindness, peace and respect in your communication with others. Children learn so much from how we treat everyone we come in contact with in our daily lives.
It can be difficult to maintain our center when we see our children being treated unkindly and disrespectfully. I know for me personally, my mama-bear self is triggered, wanting to lash out and protect my cubs. I am glad that I didn’t react in the moment and instead went to the car with the kids and discussing the options with my friend, Josha. Before deciding to go back in, I shared with her that this was one of those moments in life that I would regret not going in and saying something. Our children were encouraging me to go in and stand up for their rights as well, so I knew that it was my time and the perfect place to share my thoughts.
I know that I made a difference in the life of this employee, and in turn the rights and respect for children that he comes in contact with will affected. We raise the bar every time we have the courage to speak the Truth. I encourage you to stand up for others who you see treated meanly, or unkindly – but do it from your heart, once you are calm and truly live the respect you are preaching in your communication. It makes a difference in ways you can not even imagine. My children were grateful for my bravery standing up for them and children everywhere – with kindness and positive communication. Huge shifts are happening and I am so grateful for my growing capacity for empathy and love for others, which is leading me in directions that I have never dreamed were possible.