I heard the outburst and for a second or two I thought someone might be in danger. Was the store being robbed, had someone been hurt? And yet, I realized as I turned around, that, much to my surprise, it was a mother waiting in the check-out line yelling at the top of her voice, with a few expletives flying, directly at her teen daughter, who stood quietly despondent next to her.
The outburst occurred in a retail supply store with limited traffic on a Sunday afternoon. Mega discounts had been advertised for back-to-school supplies. And, of course, parents who are uniquely organized and mindful of these events had come early to get the best deals possible.
I thought why and what would have caused such an outburst? It could have been built-up fatigue or annoyance for any number of reasons. Perhaps it was a realization that the early discounts still far exceeded her back-to-school budget. Perhaps in combination with one or more of those things it was a demanding teen, exhibiting “lack of affect” (non-expressiveness) or even sullenness, discontent, or simple rudeness over a “no” she may have received for the umpteenth time over an unnecessary and unaffordable item. Could this evident absence of appreciation been the final straw to cause this mom’s outburst?
Mere speculation, I know. I saw only the outburst, not the lead-up to it. But at that moment, my immediate thought was, is it really necessary for a mom to yell with this intensity at her daughter in a public venue? What are the benefits?
And, while I do not know what really caused the volatile outburst, I do think that a lack of demonstrated gratitude or financial appreciation on the part of teens can “push a button” or two in a parent. But, I ask, who’s to blame for this lack of awareness?
Most teens will more often than not let you know what matters to them, or what they want but do not necessarily need. While this is a part of being a teen, I believe it’s possible to learn to be thoughtful and not selfish, caring rather than oblivious towards others, and to show consideration rather than rudeness. This can be learned by the examples set by the behavior and the teachings of our parents and it is something that we need to begin at an early age. It is our responsibility as parents to teach respect, sensitivity and concern towards others, including towards ourselves as parents. In the end, we are the role models who lay the foundation of values and expectations of behavior we want demonstrated as a family.
Being civil, kind, respectful, and even appreciative comes from the teaching and modeling of this behavior as parents. We need to remain in control of our own emotions, as hard as it may be at times, if we hope to raise children who will be able to handle their own emotions. I could not help but notice the daughter’s reaction, which was seemingly devoid of any emotion. She appeared to have shut down and wore an “I don’t care” expression.
Perhaps it was the daughter’s natural defensive response when being embarrassed in an open arena—perhaps embarrassed both for herself and for her mother. Yet her detachment told me that perhaps this was not a first-time reaction to her mother or a rare or singular incident. Sad but possibly true.
Regardless, damage is done when something of this nature occurs. The aftermath of emotions, whether humiliation, shame, or anger, are permanent in the memory of a child. Will this behavior become for the teen the standard approach that she will use in the future on her own children? And is there any beneficial outcome to this form of discipline—particularly, in a public setting. What are your thoughts?
There's no doubt in my mind that we have developed a major loss in our culture of quality communication that may be due to our ever increasing dependency and the addiction we have to our computers and smart phones.
I’ve observed personal computers open and used 24/7 in homes--- on top of the kitchen counters, on dining room tables and, of course, in the bedrooms. I wonder if we’re destined to lose our ability to communicate substantively due to extreme texting and being plugged in with earplugs. An action that seems to declare, "I'm preoccupied, leave me alone!”
What about communication through the written word? Has that too been lost to the ubiquitous texting that is commonplace, with the use of multiple abbreviations and rarely a full sentence? I suppose that’s the point of texting, to keep the communication short and to the point, to satisfy the ever increasing population that has limited time and shorter attention spans. But is this future we want?
Personally, I find myself at a loss for words (no pun intended) by the inability of many adults and teens to remain fully focused or engaged in a one-on-one conversation. There‘s less use of full sentences, fewer questions asked, and loads of inserted fillers like "huh," "um," and "like, you know." Actually, I don't know and neither will the interviewer.
It’s disheartening to see the dependency we’ve placed on our computers and mobile devices. And, as parents, would we allow our children to remain addicted to a substance that would be harmful to them? I doubt it. While computers and smart phones are not drugs, the excessive use of and need to be connected to them "24/7" certainly mirrors some of the behaviors of addicts.
Imagine what would happen if we were abruptly cut off from using our phones or computers for only 48 hours? How would most of us react? Jittery? Anxious? Panicky? Lonely? Possibly angry?
Certainly we’ve benefited from advanced technology, but can the addictive nature we have to our electronic devices really be that beneficial to our mental, emotional or physical health in the long run? How did we survive before we had access to the multitude of gadgets? Unfortunately, the Millennial generation have little to no recollection of a time when communicating did not involve electronics and social media platforms like Facebook.
So could we survive with less time online? Certainly being overloaded with information isn’t necessarily the best thing in the world. How much stimulus can the brain cope with at any given time? Aren’t we all just a little exhausted from the need to be clued in every minute of every day? What would happen if we made some small changes, and begin “tuning out and turning off” our computers and phones for just a few hours in a day? Perhaps, we could focus our attention on having a quality conversation with our children, a good friend, our wife or husband --- simply a loved one. Wouldn’t that be a nice idea? We might discover what’s really going on with those who really matter to us. It's worth considering, don’t you think?
Lately, I’ve observed on different occasions how poorly we’re listening to one another. We‘re in such a frenetic rush to state our own opinions that we fail to really hear what others are saying.
I can understand how excited one can become in the midst of a lively debate and feel the urge to express one’s passionate opinion. But how can we possibly respond well, if we never allow the other person to finish his or her thoughts?
Have we become too inpatient as a culture? Maybe, with people rushing at breakneck speeds to “do it all,” we’re losing the ability to slow down and really listen to what is being said by our spouse, our children, co-workers, friends, and other people we encounter (even our adversaries). Do relationships suffer without good listening skills?
I still remember my mother telling me that it was simply impolite to interrupt another’s flow of thought. And, now that I am older, I understand how right she was--even though recently, I, too, have been guilty of breaking this rule.
It is not only appropriate but ideal to think or reflect upon another’s words, in order to truly understand what the person is saying and to be fully engaged before we communicate our own thoughts? This also could save time and energy, as people spend less time “talking past” each other—as seems so common today—and re-explaining what they’ve just said or meant.
If we’re truthful, as adults, we’re not good at remaining silent and our children are following suit. It seems “waiting one’s turn” has disappeared. Many children fail to use the words “excuse me” when they want our attention or that of teachers or other adult figures. Examples of this would be the repeated shouts of “Mommy” or “Daddy,” along with the physical butting in or, in some cases, aggressive tugging on our shirt sleeves to get our attention. Saying, “I’m sorry, Mommy, but I have to . . . “or merely being patient while waiting their turn is often absent.
As an Etiquette Coach teaching good manners and proper social skills to children and teenagers, I question what is happening to our listening skills. We have to understand that our children emulate our behavior. We need to illustrate on a daily basis good listening skills and a show of respect for another’s view.
From TV popular reality shows to roundtable news discussions, what children see are conversations that can be insulting and discourteous. Screaming matches take place between so-called friends on popular reality shows, with vicious retorts and verbal jabs that hit way “below the belt.” Even supposed discussions of high level topics between news journalists and pundits can disintegrate into “dog fights” with guests competing to see who has the fastest or cleverest comment. In their rush to be heard, they’re not really listening. Rather, they’re making only rapid judgments with little basis since they’ve failed to hear what was said. And why must different views be “shouted down,” with the slightest disagreement turning into a battle between the involved parties?Listening well offers others room to express their opinions. Remaining open-minded and present during a discussion and, as much as possible, temporarily suspending our egos makes for a richer discussion with less misunderstanding. It is often said that good communication is 80% listening and 20% talking. Listening is not only hearing the words that are spoken, it’s being actively engaged and fully present.
As important as good listening is for adults, children need good listening skills for school, developing good friendships and, later, as young adults interviewing for college and jobs.
Here are a few tips I would like to suggest that will help guide your children, and all of us, in that direction:
Look at the person with whom they are speaking.
Do not interrupt --- rather allow the other person to finish his or her thoughts.
Nod, lean in towards the person, maintain good eye contact, and smile.
Repeat to the person what has been said (which shows active and engaged listening).
Be fully present, try to remove distractions, and stay focus on what is being said.
Finally, when children are listening more than they are talking, they learn more and appear less “self-centered.” By learning the skills for listening well, our children will demonstrate better manners and greater respect for the thoughts and opinions of others.