How do you treat the people in your life?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 11, 2011

Have you ever thought about how the way you treat others affects you?

Let’s dig into that thought.

First, I want to give you four very simple steps I learned years ago in college. These steps came about in a child psychology class and I’ve never forgotten them. I even wrote a song about them and the chorus stills rolls through my head to this day.

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Luckily for you, you get to skip that part.

The steps are:

I’m Here

I Hear You

I Understand

I Care

Simple enough, right? In that class, we learned that these are the only four things children really need from their parents. “But,” you might ask, “what about all of the other things they need, such as unconditional love, nurturing, security, positive role-modeling, trust, guidance, affirmation, correction, etc?”

Well, it’s all in there. I’ll let you put it to the test in a little bit. Keep reading.

I’m Here: Kids want to know that you are there to protect them, take care of them, answer their questions, love them, and, believe it or not, to correct them. They know this by your presence; your willingness to be involved in their lives. Being there is important. That’s why it is step number one.

I Hear You: Listening to children validates them and lets them know you care about what they have to say.

Be honest. How many times have you suffered through your daughter’s 12 minute description of the argument she had with her best friend over a sixth-grade boy, how they worked it out, and why they are fighting again — for the fourth time in two weeks!

Mind-numbing, yes this can be. But these are real things going on in her world and she wants to express them to you.

If you blow her off too much, she’s not going to tell you much in the future. Listening says, “What you have to say to me is important.”

I Understand: Asking questions, nodding your head at appropriate times, and making simple statements such as, “I see” or “I remember how that felt” is powerful because now, on top of being there and listening, you are interested in what he or she has to say.

This cannot be understated. Showing interest in children’s stories is a huge boost to their belief in their ability to effectively communicate. Hence, they will seek to communicate with you more often, which enhances both of your lives.

I Care: You’ve successfully shown your child that you are there, you are listening, and you understand his or her feelings. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a huge deal to him or her.

They are comfortable sharing their emotions with you. Now, all you have to do is wrap it up with love. If your son is excited because he just hit his first home run, use some empathy and share the excitement with him.

If your daughter is crying because her best friend got the boy, use empathy again and console her. In both situations, you’ve felt exactly as they are feeling at the moment. Show them the love you would want to be shown.

There you have it. Four little steps to be the best parent you can possibly be.

“I already do this!” you’re saying to yourself. “Why did you waste time writing a bunch of stuff most of us already know?”

Good question.

My answer is this: Why can’t we be like this with each other? Imagine the impact these four little steps could have on our society.

So, here’s my challenge to you. Memorize these easy steps and practice them with everyone you meet (friend, stranger, or foe) for the next 30 days, including your children.

I guarantee that your life will start to improve, and formerly closed doors will open, simply by how you treat others.

Billy Bruce, M.Ed, is a Cognitive Specialist at STAR Community Justice Center and a freelance writer. He can be reached via email at or by visiting his Website at