I’ve decided to conduct an experiment. It’s one I’ve really already started, just not consciously. It’s outrageous, outlandish, and might just make me the laughingstock of the PTA and readers of “parenting” magazines worldwide. It’s an experiment called “acting as if my child is just a smaller, less life-experienced adult”.
Now you might be thinking this is about “reasoning” and “explaining” and all the other “kinder, gentler” neo-nanny ways of dealing with children that all the movies make fun of. And you’d be right, sort of, but with a twist. This experiment isn’t about reasoning, explaining or really any action at all, it’s simply about a contextual shift. A shift in how I look at my child. I”m going to pretend that she’s another person living in our home and whose needs, wishes and feelings are all as important as ours. What?! You mean she gets to eat candy all day and watch cartoons and stay home from school and it’s ok if she tells you to go take a flying leap when you tell her to situp straight?? No, I’ve seen that experiment. It’s called the “big sap let’s little person walk all over them so their child will be their friend” trial. No, this is just taking a look at our children and “cross referencing” how we’d feel or treat each other as adults in similar situations. Here are a few observations and ideas going forward with this experiment:
1. Importance: The notion that because we are more highly skilled and go out and work, that our time and activities are more important. This is an easy one to keep and defend. I mean, hey, the kids wouldn’t even SURVIVE if it weren’t for our dilligence and discipline and willingness to slave away all day … and so forth and so on. So here’s another way of looking at it. How important must a child be to have TWO adults, whose most important, critical job in their whole lives is the care of this one, little person? Not to mention the babysitters, nannies and teachers involved. Do you have that many people who’s purpose in life is to make sure you have everything you need??
So my experiment will involve acknowledging that my child does not yet have the education, knowledge and wisdom to share equally in the decision making but to also help her acquire those things and still involve her. So that she feels like she’s truly a part, I will explain to her why her wishes are or are not being honored and take the time to help her feel like she’s truly a part of whatever decision we’re making. I will also really listen to what she says, the same way I listen to my wife (when I’m being a good listener!! And she lets me know when I’m not!!)
2. Displays of emotions
Our current belief goes something like this; “when a child cries, pouts or throws a tantrum, they must be punished or sent away to their room to show them how innappropriate that behavior is.” Now I think we’re on the right track, but missing the other half of the equation. We must also show them HOW to deal with their emotions in a society that is “uncomfortable” with emotional displays as well as assure them that their feelings are 100% appropriate.
This is a really important one to seriously look at. It’s been ingrained in us generation after generation. Children are to be seen and not heard, I’ll give you something to cry about and I don’t want to hear it are all belief system phrases that frankly, we inherited from our parents, grandparents and those around us. They are part of that 90% of imprinted beliefs that make up our lives. Now that’s not to say that children don’t ACT innapproprietly when they’re pissed. We live in a society where you just cannot scream and cry immediately whenever you don’t get your way. This is probably the single most unhealthiest aspect of Western civilization. The fact that we cannot say “@#$! you” when someone says or does something that we feel angry about. I am convinced that if we could simply tell people to go (blank) themselves when we’re pissed at them, our murder and domestic violence statistics would drop by 50% in one week. (I am now accepting challenges to this notion!) – But, the way our society is setup is a “greater” reality and we have to work within the greater reality or become a martyr. I choose the easier “work within greater reality” scheme for this experiment.
So the key is to help my child BOTH understand that there is a time, place and method to EXPRESS emotion and also that it’s ok to feel the way they’re feeling and that they have every right to feel that way and to HELP them and ENCOURAGE them to express those feelings in an appropriate venue.
Well, I hope this was helpful. It certainly was to me! We get by giving, teach what we have to learn and on and on! Off to start my experiment. What?? You want me to play barbies with you??? Are you out of your mind? I have important WORK TO DO!!!!!