Challenge #02616-G059: Vital Education
A: Why is your baby so happy and well behaved? I've tried everything with mine!
Baby A: shriiieeeeek!!!
B: I just listen to them.
Baby B: happy cooing -- Anon Guest
Parenting classes did not exist, once. People were expected to pick up parenting from their own parents. This was not always the best model. Child psychology and psychology in general began with one simple step: listening. The instant people began to learn that their infants attempt communication from birth, is the instant things change for the better.
Of course, like most things, it was not a universal nor an overnight change. There were many who thought it was some neohippy nonsense. Many of them were hostile. Some... were desperate enough to consider the results. There were scenes similar all over the world, but this one occurred in a waiting room with overworked understaff in attendance.
In such a room, one baby cries because they are bored. Then ten more babies cry because one baby is crying. Keeping them quiet is exasperating for everyone. The babies are stressed. The mothers are anxious because their babies were crying and they might look like bad mothers because of it. The few staff present were stressed because there wasn't enough of them to go around and the room was full of crying babies.
It doesn't take many babies to fill a room with crying babies. Five upset infants is enough to give the impression of an entire room filled with them. This one was full of twenty. In such a place, one relatively happy one stands out. This child wasn't exactly happy because they were in a room with crying babies, but the child was at least as behaved as one might expect from someone whose life is measured in months.
The neighbouring mother was desperately trying to quell their child, watching in amazement as the relatively quiet child was content to sing and dance -as well as a baby can sing and dance- in counterpoint to the screaming going on. "How?" demanded the beleaguered one. "How is your kid so well-behaved in the middle of all this?"
At least one parent had given up and were allowing their child to just throw a tantrum in the middle of the floor. Another child was actively ignoring their little one running through any space they could run through. Three kids from three different families were fighting over a lump of plastic that, were it in their home, would have been ignored by each of them. One kid was just throwing every single happy meal toy in the communal toy box at anyone who came close, shouting "NO!" every time they did so. The fact that this one child was content to stay close to their mother and stay relatively quiet was tantamount to a miracle.
The apparently lucky parent finished the current stanza of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and said, "Mama needs to talk to the other mama, okay?" and, in another miracle, the toddler in question acknowledged this and busied themself with a toy they had brought from home. "I'm going to tell you, and you're going to act like I'm lying," she said. "Everybody does."
The squirming, protesting ball of elbows, knees, and impossibly sharp hip bones that was normally her son was growling as he tried to escape her grip. "Please. I'm just about desperate enough to try anything."
"Told you so," said the lucky mother. "It does get a little more complicated than that, but it boils down to listening in various forms."
"They can barely talk. What can they tell us?"
"Well... your boy is telling me that he's tired of sitting still. Maybe you could hold his hand and walk around with him for a little."
The presence of a different adult moving around quelled the worst of the tantrums. When a child didn't know what was going on, they at least quieted down to see what happened next. When the little boy had had enough of walking, he plopped onto the floor. His mother sent a desperate look.
"Ask him if he wants you to carry him."
When the boy did up-arms, the mother complied, and he was much happier with his place in the world. He even joined in with a few choruses of Twinkle Twinkle.
The result of this was electric. Even the mothers who had given up was paying attention. In minutes, yet another tantrum-ridden and noisy baby had transformed into a reasonably well-behaved, if slightly miserable, small child.
Children, said the lucky mother, were not forces to combat. They were people. Admittedly, they were people with less in the way of worldly experience, but they also had fewer ways to express what was bothering them. They could all understand far more than they could say, and a little bit of respecting boundaries in combination with explanation went a long way. So too did adhering to one's own rules.
"Children believe the world should be fair, and they are right," said the starter mother to her enraptured audience. Their children had since settled down now that responses to their issues were sorted out. "We're the people who run their world, and it's up to us to shape their beliefs. If we fight for a fairer world, they will too. We make our homes fair, we expect the school to be fair. By the time they enter the workplace, they have all the tools they need to negotiate for what is right. Tomorrow is in our hands." With near perfect timing, her little girl motioned to be picked up, and the mother obliged. "Kindness, care, communication... all these are important. So is leading by example."
Now... only the truly inconsolable were crying, but they were also in the middle of negotiations. Some things could not be helped very well, like teething pains, but others were solvable in time. Starting with seeing the medical staff in order to get them to feel better.
Every mother formed the same opinion: "People should be taught this in school." It took years - centuries in fact - but it was, eventually, made to happen.
The chief argument, as always, boiled down to, "Why should others have it easy because I had it hard?" Which is never a good reason to maintain bad things.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / oksun70]
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