Chirping Is Like Sniping
It Hits The Mark
But Kills The Target
Chirping was my Dad’s parenting style, and he did it a lot but don’t get me wrong. I mean no disrespect. I never doubted he loved me and he did many things to show it.
From what I can tell, though, many parents employ the chirp and they, like him, are really good parents in many ways. These are not bad people.
My father, for example, provided all the basic things a family needs.
A roof over our heads, good nutrition, access to good schooling, good medical care and great dental care. In fact, the dentist was the best in our city. No lie. I have fillings today that are over 50 years old. They will outlast the ivory. Also, to my great delight, every Christmas I got everything I wanted and more.
He was a good father but one area in which he didn’t do so well was chirping. That doesn’t mean he was bad. It means he was imperfect and that’s Okay because there is no such thing as a perfect parent.
I tried to honor him by remembering all the great things he did and there are many good memories. But I also honored him by trying to isolate his parenting mistakes and improve on them.
I’ve told my kids the same. Don’t mimic me. Copy the things I did well and improve on what I did wrong.
There’s nothing worse than a father who thinks he can do no wrong. Authenticity is a great relationship tool even between parents and children.
Well, as I mentioned, one thing my Dad did wrong was “Chirp” and he did it a lot. Here’s what I mean by that.
A chirper is someone who is careful to state what is right, yes, but chirping is much more that just a statement of truth or fact. It is a lifestyle, a mode of operation. It is the chief means of getting things done.
A chirping parent uses only one primary tool to guide there children: their mouth. Take their mouth away and they are helpless. The only variables are volume and tone, neither of which can be deployed without a mouth.
Variation in volume is used to emphasize a point and inflection in tone is used to warn, threaten or express hurt feelings depending on the situation.
Here’s how it plays out:
- First chirp: parent tells child to do homework and not watch so much TV.
- Child’s response: initially shock and then dismay at being disturbed, a slumping of the shoulders, continues to watch TV while mumbling “yes Dad.”
- Second chirp: same instruction only this time with a little more volume. The volume says, “I really mean this.”
- Child’s response: exasperation, a look of hurt, and “okay, okay,” in a surrendering tone followed by “I will in just a minute.” Dad walks off in a huff.
- Reality: the child may continue to watch TV (I did often) or may turn it off and engage the homework but only distractedly. Pouting gets in the way.
- Next night: Same scenario. Same result.
This happens night after night and becomes routine. No real communication occurs. No real change happens and the relationship is aggravated. The parent becomes disgusted with the child (another tone added to the tool box) and the child loses respect for the parent.
They still love each other but they don’t relate very well.
What should happen instead?
Well, staying with the TV analogy, if you want your child to get an education and develop all the skills an education is meant to nurture, do the following:
- Don’t make TV the center of your home, the place to which everyone’s attention is drawn. Put it in a different room if necessary.
- Make and enforce rules for TV watching. Only certain days and only certain times on those days.
- Make TV watching a right to be earned. Require certain things to be done before TV is engaged. So much time reading or writing or practicing piano or housework or homework.
- Make it a habit. Do this everyday so it becomes a lifestyle and not just a passing parental self improvement whim.
- Encourage conversation. Create opportunities for your kids to converse with the family and listen seriously when they do. They’ll develop an interest in incisive thinking and believe what they have to say matters.
- Encourage skills development like reading and writing. These are basic to getting an education and communication. Don’t neglect them.
Some of these ideas I learned from a classmate. We were in 8th grade algebra together and every down moment he pulled out a book and read. I asked him why he did that and he said he really enjoyed reading. I also asked where he developed the interest. He said from an early age his adopted parents bought him books and required he read so much time EVERY DAY!
I couldn’t believe it. Both my parents chirped about reading. Neither bought me a book or created an atmosphere for reading.
Chirping is a waste of time, energy, emotion and oxygen. Don’t do it.
If you really care about your children you’ll do more than provide all the material things they need. You will see that their skills development is not stunted by self consuming activities, such as watching TV.
If you’re smart, you’ll start early so your child develops a taste for thinking and reading and learning. They’ll love you for it! They will also learn how to entertain themselves, think for themselves and enjoy time alone. It builds self esteem.