One of the most terrifying sights for most parents I will assume, is to see their toddler with a sharp object. Numerous videos of toddlers going to great lengths to retrieve the object of their interest, flood the internet. From climbing out of their cribs to scaling over a refrigerator. One begins to wonder how creatures so sweet and little can “manifest” the way they do. Asides from when they are asleep, quiet time is not what parents with active toddlers can easily lay claim to.
The quietness of your home can be an indication that your little curious angel might be working on an invention or finding new ways to apply lotion. Such was my case on this fair-weather Saturday. My apartment was unusually quiet. According to Cathy Guisewite, an American cartoonist who created the comic strip Cathy, which had a 34-year run, “All mothers have great intuition, the great ones have a radar”. So with my “radar”, I located my almost two and half year old in a corner, mouth slightly apart, eyes fixed on a piece of paper with rapt attention attempting to carve out an image with a new scissor that was not only sharp but also twice the size of her little hands.
With a super speed that will make the superhero Flash appear slow, I flew across the room in a split second towards her. I knew I could not just grab the scissors by force as there was the possibility of an injury occurring in the process. With an authoritative and almost threatening tone, I said “give me that scissors now”.
The young lady stood up to her full length that was barely 3 feet, raised the scissors as high as her hand could reach (which was hardly above her head), and said, “what is the magic word?”. In that instant two options flashed through my mind – Option 1- I could easily employ force and collect the scissors without causing harm to my child or Option 2 – use the magic word and have her hand over the scissors to me. I knew my choice will transcend this moment and might create a lasting impression on how she views or handle dispute resolution.
Stephen Covey in his book Seven habits of highly effective people stated “what you do have a far greater impact than what you say”. I had to choose carefully having the end in mind. Option 1 will mean, that it is okay to use your advantage (whether it is size, position or power) to circumvent the rules and have your way whether you are in the right or not. People with this advantage do not necessarily have to follow the rules; rules are for the disadvantaged.
Option 2, practice what you preach even when in a difficult position. Uphold the rules and engage the opposing party as an equal by reasoning your way out of the conflict. In my opinion, Option 1 was easier and shorter but is this how I wanted to raise a child for the future? Is this how I wanted to raise a woman who I expect to give fair and objective appraisal despite her relationship with her appraisee? Or one who will treat her employees as equals? No, so I opted for option 2, “Please give me the scissors” I said calmly, the young lady chuckled and said “better” while handing over the scissors. I collected the scissors and calmly explained to her why the scissors can be dangerous and all the possible things that could have gone wrong. I reinforced it with the need to always seek permission before taking things that do not belong to you, even when you want to make a beautiful card for your mummy. Even now that she can use the scissor appropriate for her age, it is not lost on her that it is an object that should be used carefully.
Stories of intimidation are plastered along the corridors of corporate, private and government offices even in our homes. Where someone with the power advantage uses it to achieve almost everything from influencing decisions to ruling with fear and trepidation. Yet, one will think that people who suffer from the brunt of intimidation will treat people differently, but the vicious cycle continues. Why? It’s because at an early age, we learn more from actions than words.
Looking at your actions, what are you teaching your children? You want them to read books, do they see you read? You want them to be polite, but do you use your magic words? Some theorists argue that there is more than one way to learn, more than one way to be “intelligent.” Understanding this fact will make us conscious of not how well we use words but how well our actions match those words. Let your words teach and your actions speak.
Photo credit – https://www.pexels.com/nappy