What I Learned By Watching Three Families in A Waiting Room

Yesterday, I took my mom to her doctor’s appointment, and spent some time in the clinic’s waiting room.  It was a great day for people-watching and I had the opportunity to observe parenting (and grandparenting) styles.

Sitting semi-near the check-in desk, people tended to sit nearby me, as well.  Grabbing a copy of “Padres” magazine on the table beside me, I practiced my Spanish, peeking out every once in awhile without being too obvious.  This waiting room isn’t like mine, which imposes the expectation that you will lower your voice the minute you enter (my clinic waiting room is usually pretty quiet, no matter how many people are waiting:) Here, I didn’t even have to strain my ears to hear what people were saying!

Loving Grandpa

There was one very loving grandpa who clearly adores his grandson and the feeling’s mutual.  He talked almost non-stop, with loud and excited plans of what they were going to do, questions for his grandson, and many instructions.  The little boy had a great attitude, and everything was good between them!  The lesson I learned from him, though, was that showing once is better than telling six times. Explaining “why” you should “never ever” do something is a good way for a child to learn a principle that they can apply in more than one situation.  And I learned to save my serious, intense voice for things that are more important.

You are such a good grandpa.  I loved how much you love your grandson, and he’s so fortunate to have you.

Harried Mama

A mom with a boy–I’ll call him “Andy”–who was maybe 7-9, (hard to tell) came in. We were in a clinic waiting room, so there could be illness and a lot of stress in the family right now.  The boy became more stressed, insecure and agitated during their time there. “Mom’s” voice was loud and intense.  “Andy!”  “Get over here!”  “That was not ok!”  She yelled out his name loudly from across the room, and got his attention, but then didn’t tell him why she’d yelled at him.  I think her yelling his name meant that he was doing something wrong–but, he was in front of me, (she was behind me a ways) and I never saw him do anything wrong.

I learned from this mom that we all need to model the voice which is appropriate in the setting we’re in.  We should talk to our children calmly most of the time, and then when we want to get their attention, say their name, but give them a clear instruction, which they can carry out.  Children need to know what they’ve done wrong, and that they’re still loved, even when they do wrong.  I learned that even when I’m under a lot of stress and maybe there are a lot of problems, I shouldn’t pass on my stress to my family.  I saw how insecure and stressed that little boy became, and confused, and then how he began to act out.  He clearly needed to know that he was loved, and everything was going to be ok.

I also learned that waiting rooms need a few toys or play things for children! Wise moms will bring something for their children to quietly do while sitting in a waiting room.  This mom could have said, “Sit down beside me and draw a picture–here’s a piece of paper.”  Or, “Look at this book quietly while we wait.  It will be just a little while.”  “You may not run all over the waiting room; you need to sit here by me.”  There was a fish tank, and she could have gone over with him and looked at the fish.

A Very Nice Young Man

A young dad came in with his son, who was about 10. They saw people they knew who were sitting near me. The people were a well-dressed, nice-looking older couple–the woman had come in first, and had smiled at me when she sat down nearby, and her husband–and their granddaughter who had a baby that was sick.  The boy, without prompting, went over to the older woman and gave her a gentle hug around her neck, and stood still in front of her, looking her in the eye, while he respectfully answered her questions and talked to her, giving no indication of impatience to leave.  He stood still, didn’t interrupt, didn’t speak too loudly, was patient with the little girl (about 1 year old), who really liked him, but who wasn’t acting very nicely to him.  Several minutes of conversation between the adults ensued, and upon leaving, he gave hugs around the neck to the two grandparent-like people, and he and his polite dad said, “Goodbye.”  He walked with his dad to the door.  That young man’s behavior was very impressive.

I would love to say to that dad, “Well done! Your son is very well-mannered, and polite, and knows how, at a young age, to conduct himself in a public place, and when he meets people whom he knows.  He has been taught well.  Your example is excellent, and clearly you have 2 of the 3 elements of child-training down (in this area anyway): Example and Training.”

I couldn’t help but speak to the older gentleman, when I had the chance, who said, yes, the boy is related to him, and to pass on the praise for this young man who is so very well-mannered, and well-behaved.  It is so good to see.

Final lessons:  Life in our times is quite intense.  It can be really stressful.  Being a parent is stressful.  Busyness, responsibilities, illness and problems can cause us to use a sharp and intense tone and to increase our volume when it hasn’t got anything to do with how our children are behaving. Our tone can imply a seriousness that isn’t really appropriate to the situation, but rather is due to the stress we are feeling at the time.  It is a lesson to me.

I also learned that there are well-mannered and well-behaved young people out there, who have caring people around them, and I can encourage them when I see them.  That’s something I am very happy to do.

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Thanks for reading Faith’s Firm Foundation!

5 Replies to “What I Learned By Watching Three Families in A Waiting Room”

  1. Thank you so much for your kind comments, Mary Joy. Your suggestions from your experience are very appreciated. Great ideas–love backpacks. Our children, during my cancer treatments, brought their backpacks full of schoolwork, etc. Though there were many distractions, they did get some of their work done, and it kept them occupied, as well as being a good testimony.

    I’m reminded that during that time I used to pray for the others in the waiting room, while I was there. I’d forgotten that. It is a stressful time for many in a waiting room, and it’s good to remember that some, especially those who don’t know the Lord, are probably feeling fearful and anxious.

  2. You are right. Waiting rooms are great places to learn about families. From personal experience, I have learned to bring along a backpack with books for both of our sons and notebooks for them to draw or write in while they wait. It really does help them to keep busy and not develop boredom behavior issues…and it helps me to remain focused and calm in a stressful time.

    I love that you shared with the older gentleman what you admired about the young man’s behavior. It is good to see fathers and sons together with good things happening.

    This is my first visit to your blog. I really enjoyed it. I will be back!


    Mrs Mary Joy Pershing

  3. Great post! Yes, there are still some very well mannered and well behaved children out there. I am with you when I see them, I have to compliment as well. They all deserve to know the children and the parents.

    1. This older man was obviously so pleased that I’d shared that with him. When I left, he made a point of saying, “Have a good day!” (Maybe he’s the proud grandpa:)

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