What's the difference between sage parental advice and annoying lectures? Honestly sometimes I'm not sure. When I was a kid I thought I could pinpoint it pretty exactly. There didn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to it but sometimes when my parents were offering me wisdom, I felt picked on or lectured to and I got mad.
This morning the kids were fighting about some little thing that was obviously very important to them. I walked in on the fight, determined that they could both be a little kinder and told them to chill out. This served to set Laylee off more. She was filled with rage.
So I hopped on the lecture circuit. I meant to give advice, truly I did but she was giving me the look, the glaring eyes of rage that let me know very clearly she would rather I just shut my yapper. I kept going. I told her the reasons why they were both in the wrong and that she didn't have a right to be so mad at her brother. I told her that you don't always get what you want. I told her that she could choose whether or not to melt down and that the only person responsible for her emotions was her. I may have told her to check herself BEFORE she wrecked herself.
Silent tears streamed down her face as she turned away from me, her fists tense. Why was she giving me the lecture response when I was giving her such great advice? Baffled, I loaded everyone into the car. And then it hit me – the difference between a lecture and advice is the attitude of the kid. If the kid has a bad attitude, then they will receive your sage parental wisdom as a judgmental annoying lecture. If they put their pride away and have a good attitude, they will take your advice to heart and change their lives.
I thought of the great opportunity Laylee was missing out on and I paused for a brief moment of silence to remember with regret the times I had blown off my parents' advice without giving enough credence to their words. What a fool I had been, even as Laylee was now being a fool.
Then I suddenly remembered a recent time when I had gotten really, really mad and acted like an immature pouty baby for no reason. I was emotional about something and let those emotions completely take over my actions, basically throwing a fit in front of my kids and husband. It did not feel good. It was not the right choice. I was still sorry I'd acted that way. I was filled with love for Laylee and a desire to protect her from making the same mistake I had.
I looked back at her in the seat behind me and simply said, "I love you. I know how it feels to be really mad and choose to stay mad and mean. I've done it before and it feels awful. I am never happy when I'm unkind and I know because sometimes I am unkind. I just don't want you to ever have to feel like that inside. I wish you would let it go because you'll be so much happier."
Then I drove to school in silence.
And she softened. She thought about it. She took the advice.
I can attribute the transformation to two things. First, I showed and actually felt real love and concern for her rather than a simple desire to get her to stop fighting and whining because it annoyed me. Second, she felt my love and her attitude changed so she was able to hear my advice for what it was. She heard my advice for what it was the first time too, a self-righteous, annoying lecture.
Now, looking back on my childhood experience, I know that children will not always react that well even if our motives are totally pure. Sometimes they just want to be mad. They are so very much like people. However, when real love is present, things are so much more likely to go well.