Collin told me the other day how he LOVES being 4 years old and how being 3 years old was the “olden times.”

I asked him why was it so great to be 4. He said because he is a role model and gets to teach the little ones (3 and under). He loves how they listen to him. But he gets really frustrated when they don’t. 

One day he came home sad that someone didn’t listen to him and explained the situation. It wasn’t anything unusual but seemed like he was just telling people what to do. I asked him if he ever tries to listen to the younger ones (3 and under) to see what they want.

He was shocked and reacted, “Why would I listen to them when they are supposed to listen to me!? They are supposed to do as I say!!” 

It was hectic. 

He continued, “Role models don’t listen, we teach little kids what to do!”

Where does he get this!? At first it was cute then I realized that he must learn this from us! Parenting is like looking in the mirror.

When Collin is tantrum(ing) or not following his any of his routines (like washing his hands, going potty or eating his meal) I’m constantly saying, “Collin, you need to listen to me…!” I’m usually trying to get him to do something in a relatively short period of time. We are not always listening to him or even have time to listen — he is really just reflecting us (and society).

When we take a moment to listen, we learn. For example, when he doesn’t want to wash his hand, it is because sometimes they hurt from his eczema and scratching. 

He interrupts us while we talk not to be rude but because sometimes he is afraid he will forget his idea or thought.

He refuses to go potty sometimes… not sure why this happens actually!

He uses his hands for food – even cereal – because it is still hard to use some utensils. 

Sometimes he is just pushing our buttons and trying to get away with stuff but most of the time, he’s trying to tell us something or doesn’t know how to say it yet. Or sometimes he is afraid that he won’t be good enough. Sometimes a good extended tantrum cry creates clarity. Little humans are complex beings!

So here is what we’re working on. We talk about things before they become a thing, like cutting his nails so he doesn’t scratch himself so much. We’re practicing how to remember 1-2 things at a time. And sometimes when we have more time I just let him slowly eat with his hands or use larger utensils.

So what is the point? Purpose is usually forgotten in all this too. When I remember, I remind him that I’m his baba and here to love and support him in life (but mostly referring to all his routines until he can do them on his own. Someday!) I also remind him that I make mistakes and I’m still learning to be a better listener.

I’m sure there are parenting books that can articulate this better. I’m very aware of my power and privilege as a parent (also being a middle class cis-man) but don’t let that overpower me, I only let my purpose lead me as much as possible.

I’m very aware of my power and privilege as a parent but don’t let that overpower me, I only let my purpose lead me as much as possible.

The bigger lesson for me is learning to listen more, like literally. The rule of thumb for organizers is to listen 60% of the time (not always practiced, of course).

I try to listen more to Collin these days even if it is 10 minutes a day of active listening. I ask questions and take notes. I observe my reactions, what I say to him and what I choose not to say. Not every moment needs to be a “teachable moment.” It is not easy but a good muscle to build with my child and life in general.

At the end of the day, it is less about changing Collin (or anyone for that matter) but modeling that change and transformation in myself as much as a can.