That might be the best advice anyone could give a parent.
Listen to what your children have to say. They are, after all, real people with real emotions and real problems.
And, sometimes, surprising wisdom.
A case in point is a bundle of letters Family Life received last week from members of Linda Yeoman's fifth-grade class at Cloverdale Elementary School in Irvine. They were responding to a question posed in this column about allowances and forms of punishment.
They expanded on their views when I visited them in the classroom this week.
About half of the class of 10-year-olds (15 of 33) said their parents spank them for rules infractions, while the rest receive other forms of punishment--from losing privileges to being restricted to being yelled at.
To a person, they oppose spanking, not because it hurts but because they see it as ineffective. They also find shouting ineffective.
And they get confused when Mom and Dad argue in front of them over punishment.
Their preference? About what you and I want out of our relationships, personal or professional: a little reason.
Leila Attari urges parents to establish "fair rules." She would punish her child "by talking (the problem) over and then listen to what the child has to say."
Alysia Atchley endorses her parents' approach and says she would treat her children the same way. "I am sent to the corner with a chair. I sit there with nothing to do but think (about what I'm being punished for)."
Sara Ashraf also backs her parents' approach but would add one thing: "My parents explain to me what I did wrong and say not to do it again." With her own children, she wrote, she would do the same thing, but "if they did it again, I would yell at them."
Jenny Bell asks parents to understand that children know when they've done something wrong and that knowledge is punishment enough. She is punished by losing television privileges. "That does not bother me," she wrote. "What bothers me is my guiltiness . . . and if I were a parent, I would try to understand that they feel guilty."
Johnathon Doan, 10, says he gets "spanked and yelled at at the same time," and while he admits it works, he would just "yell at them and then tell them what they should and shouldn't do."
Nana Ito's mother should be happy to hear that she would handle her own children "by talking to them just like my mom to show her that I learned a lot from her."
Michael Flowers likes the idea of using what he called "sycology." For example, "if my child stole something, I would steal something from him, then say, 'Now you know how it feels.' "
Allison Friedland says children would remember wrongdoing "if they had to write it down and take it to their room and think about it and then talk it over with their parents."
These and other children in the Cloverdale class also suggest that parents try to avoid jumping to conclusions, to take a more judicial approach to a problem by calmly weighing both the facts and their responses.
Those with brothers and sisters all said they had been punished for things they had not done (although they also admitted to keeping mum while watching the same thing happen to their siblings).
In essence, what they ask of their parents is to treat their children as they would want to be treated themselves.
Pretty sound advice.
Do you give your children an allowance? If so, how much do they get and on what is the rate based?
Spare the Rod
How do you punish your children--by spanking them or by restricting their activities? Or do you have some other method? We'd like to know.
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