Keep It Down
If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.
One of the startling truths about parental anxiety is that we often try to stamp out the very qualities and skills that will serve our children best in adulthood. We get so frustrated at our kids’ refusal to take the first ‘no’ for an answer, yet that’s the exact skill they’ll learn in Sales and Negotiation 101. We openly complain about our “strong-willed child,” but if we want our kids to say no to peer pressure, they had better have a strong-will.
And the same thing happens when it comes to being spirited, excitable, and enthusiastic. We love it when our kids are all fired up on the ball field, or strongly motivated to finish a school project. But when they’re just full of life, passionate about achieving a new level on a videogame, or just plain giddy, giggly, and loud, we get easily annoyed. I know I do.
But our job is not to stifle our kids’ emotions when they seem inappropriate, or misapplied, or just too exuberant. Our job is to calmly steer those emotions into productive expression. This could mean sometimes allowing their good mood to brighten ours, especially when we’ve had a bad day and feel entitled to be grumpy. This could mean spending an entire week just observing our child and discovering what they’re really passionate about—and championing that passion. This could mean asking them, in as warm a voice as we can muster, exactly what they’re excited about.
There’s no such thing as ScreamFree Kids—at least not for long. While there are plenty of times when it’s appropriate to “use an inside voice,” or “wait patiently till it’s your turn,” or even “let’s turn the volume down from 11,” there are also plenty of times when unbridled enthusiasm should remain unbridled.
Peace begins with pause,