Everyone wants to be safe. When floodwaters rise, people seek higher ground. When gunshots ring out, people run for cover. And when parents are harsh and abrasive, children desperately try to remain out of sight. A safe home is the sweetest place of all. There's no higher ground above life's raging flood of problems, no cover more secure from society's inevitable assaults than a safe home provides. A safe home is where your children and grandchildren want to be.
Unhappily, many homes are unsafe. While parents may think they're providing their children safety and security from an uncertain world, they may be unwittingly creating a home environment that isn't safe for the very children they're trying to protect.
Frowns and scowls are sure tip-offs to an unsafe home. A parent's face etched with displeasure is an early warning sign. An angry expression allows a mother or father to convey displeasure and unhappiness without saying a word. Such unspoken communication is devastating to a child.
In my doctor's office waiting room, I was recently amused by a small boy's efforts to entertain his little brother while their mother spoke with the receptionist. He was wheeling the toddler's stroller back and forth, making him squeal with delight. It was a precious scene. Suddenly the mother snapped, "Stop that right now! Stand here! Settle down!" How much better it would've been if that mother had tenderly smiled and softly said, "I'm glad you're trying to make your brother happy, but we must be careful here. Please stand over here by me; we'll be going soon."
Parents persist in harsh, contentious behavior because they mistakenly believe it to be an efficient way to keep children in line. In the long run, this never works-it only makes matters worse. The more parents frown and scowl, the more their children are likely to misbehave.
Try this experiment in the coming week. Whenever your children behave well, reward them with a smile. Give them a wink. Blow them a kiss. Give them a high-five, or simply pass along a gentle touch or tender word of appreciation.
When they do annoying, but harmless things that don't hut anyone or damage anything, simply look away and say nothing. When they begin behaving once again, acknowledge this with a warm look or smile.
In unsafe homes, parents are heavily inclined to communicate disapproval. Safe home parents take a moment-just a second or two-to convey approval an average of 30 times an hour. Think about it. It takes no more than a minute and a half to have 30 positive, pleasant "safe home" interactions with your children in just a single hour.
Try it! Beware of the messages-both silent and spoken-you send your children. Practice positive communication. The rewards are great, and you have absolutely nothing to lose-but an unsafe home.