Although many people may know me; they don’t know my recent full story. I reckon I should start writing it.
I will begin today by shortly telling you, some things about how I changed homes. My daughter, my wife and I, moved to Switzerland in June 2014. We had here a nice summer with lots of discoveries. I stayed home with my girl from the beginning, and we shared together lots of single moments.
During the first six months here, all my family visited us: our parents and my wife’s sister with her husband. Exception made one family member, who did not visit us till November 2015. He is my only brother. I’m the oldest. The age difference between us being of 11 years.
Two months ago one of his best friends moved in Zürich, and suddenly he announced me that he would visit us too, at the end of fall.
“Great! I said. He is not coming for me, but at least, I will spend some time with him, and I will have the opportunity to know him better.”
He arrived on his bike in a beautiful day of November. I put on hold all my ongoing projects in that period, and I only tried to answer to my emails so as to spend as much time together as we could. We cycled together, went hiking together, went along with my daughter at kindergarten, cooked together, went to the pool for a swim together, and we went for city sightseeing in Zug with my daughter. At the end of the week, on a cold sunny Saturday, we went to Zurich and Sunday on an excellent boat tour on the beautiful Luzern lake. My wife and I tried to make for him, those days here, a memorable vacation.
And, as long my girl was in the kindergarten, (my wife being home only in the evening as she is working full time), we had the opportunity to talk, more than we had spoken in the previous six years.
I will tell you now, how on one of those days when we were only the two of us, he began to share some thoughts:
“Once when I was in the 3rd grade, it was winter then, snow outside, cold and silence. And you were at college then. I remember that I did my homework quickly, and you checked it, as you were home that evening, and you were so proud that I finished so quickly and precisely. My thought was only to get out from my small room and go into the living room to watch TV. Then, you tried to show me something new. On a new, big notebook, you showed me something that was supposed to be doing at school one or two years from then on. You showed me nicely two times what to do, with examples, and everything, and after that, you passed me an exercise to solve it by myself. And I said:
– NO, NO, NO this is not my homework! And after that, you started to hit me on the head, in the nape and saying “You can do it!”. I said, “NO” again and you hit me again and again. And after that, you left the room furiously. “
On hearing this story, I remembered about my fights with my little brother. Fights during which was the only one who was hitting, as he was so small then to fight back. He was the one who watched me silently with anger in his eyes, but all the time stubborn. Tears came to my eyes. But I couldn’t let them go. Because now, in front of me, there was a taller and stronger man than I was at his age. He now was laughing and said to me this story with a smile on his face. Our parents never spanked us, but all my life other kids beat me at different ages between 10-17. So I become also a bully. I was living than with the fear that my little brother would suffer as I had suffered. My intention was to make him stronger and able to protect himself. Because now I am a father, and I improve my parenting skills all the time, I realised what big mistakes I made then with him. But I learned from Luise Hay to be gentle with myself. Because I did the best I could with the knowledge and understanding that I had. I wanted now to hold in my arms that eight years old boy from the story. But now no words could change anything. I also know that my younger brother was never beaten by others because he had not a stronger, but a bigger brother. An elder brother that I missed so much in my childhood.
You could imagine that I was trying to ask him to study more that night because he had potential, but his idea at that age was only to finish his homework quickly to do what he enjoyed. Math wasn’t a joy. It was only a school punishment. He did his math homework because he was afraid of the consequences of a bad grade. Now he hates math.
I promise that I will tell you more about homework and why are not suitable for school children in another article.
In a way, I consider myself lucky because I applied all the principles of the traditional parenting at an early age, with my brother. I always looked for solutions to improve my relationship with him, and I think I succeeded. But when my first child was born I knew from the beginning that the practices that I had applied till then with my brother, are not sufficient. And I had to find the ones that work well.
What was the problem with what I wanted to teach my brother?
I did not ask for his intentions. I didn’t know what he wished to do that night, and I wanted to enforce my will. Did I succeed to teach him new mathematical theories or everything new? NO.
Today I will give you my first guidelines to follow to improve your relationship with your children and not to raise kids that when they see you, they have only fear in their eyes.
Listen to your child needs and don’t judge
It was so simple for me to say to my brother:
“Hi! I noticed that you finished quickly. What do you want to do tonight? Do you want me to show you a new math way to solve harder exercises quicker?”
And then just to listen to the boy. Would this make a difference in our current one to one relationship?
It wasn’t easy for me and him to start talking again. Especially for him, I think. As for so many years, I did not listen to him but only judge him.
Don’t punish! Because you will have angry kids at home.
15 years ago, my brother couldn’t stop me. He was small and weak then. With his clenched teeth, he was saying NO and even if I continue for hours hitting him, I couldn’t convince him to do what I wanted. I do remember that at that age, around 18-year-old, my age, I stopped hitting him and didn’t spend so much time with him afterwards. His anger was deeper and bigger and with this method I never had results. But I made this mistake with my little brother. Myself being a victim of other bullies I become in the end one. I’m writing this for you but I’m also writing for him, and I hope that he realised that I made these mistakes when I was very young.
Don’t punish! Because you will offer a model for using the power.
At the last parents meeting at the kindergarten where my daughter goes for German classes, called “Deutsch macht spass” one of the teachers, had some reasons to said something surprisingly to me:
“- Stop being aggressive home with your children. We here, know which parents are punishing or beating their kids at home. Stop doing that!”
I said then in my mind: “Really? You know that?”.
Yes indeed, I answered myself two hours later home: The child is following at the kindergarten the education and the behaviour from home.
For example, that child can say anytime:
“Give me your toy otherwise I will push you! I am bigger than you!”
Why? Because a child knows this behaviour from a parent who used the force against him. Even verbally. Punishments are teaching the child that can pass effortlessly through life by using the power over those how are smaller or weaker.
For you to know that I’m not inventing the wheel, from a list of 20 studies that I know of the years 1957 – 2004 (majority from the United States), I picked one and here it is a chart from this discipline study.
Straus, Murray A. Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families and Its Effects on Children. 2nd ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2001.
Don’t punish! Because the empathy you want to grow in your child, will die forever