Where is the fine line drawn between allowing your kids to unabashedly share their feelings with you and demanding they communicate respectfully?
I have always found that I want to treat Azita and Ada how I prefer to be treated. You’d think this is a pretty simple statement that sounds reasonable enough that most would agree with it.
But it’s got some complex implications, especially when you are frustrated with a child that is not in the mood to agree with you or ‘respect your authority’.
I get annoyed when the need to leave somewhere, eat what I chose to make for dinner or clean up a mess is met with resistance at best or a screaming tantrum at worst, just like any parent. And I lose my temper plenty.
I also have this ideal though, of treating a kid how I would have wanted to have been treated. I feel like some parents go so far as to make it seem as if the child’s feelings aren’t valid.
For instance, leaving a fun place like the park or playdate or grandma’s house is not always easy. Some children have a harder time with transitions than others, also. But how would an adult feel if someone suddenly came up to them and forced them to leave what they were doing, no matter what it was, with no say-so in the process? My kids do pretty good with warnings, although I was afraid their sense of time was getting skewed with the amount of “It’s about time to leave, five more minutes” warnings there were. So I started setting the alarm on my cell phone and always tell them how long will pass before it goes off. That helps alot.
But what about the times it doesn’t help? What about when I still have a yelling, disappointed, “world-is-going-to-end” 4 year old? I just tell her that I’ve given her warnings and I’m going to have to pick her up. She can scream if she wants. It seems like screaming, which a child does when they are too upset to voice their emotions, can really provoke anger and annoyance in me. But I’ve found that when I don’t make a big deal about it, it ends much quicker. We get in the car, I tell her I’m sorry she’s diasppointed, but it’s just time to go.
Another thing I can’t jive with is the “don’t talk back to me” thing. You know what…. my kids *do* have the right to talk back to me. I *will* validate their feelings and emotions, even if I don’t agree with them.
This shouldn’t be misinterpreted. My kids are not screaming little terrors that get everything they want whenever they want. Anyone who knows us personally, I would hope agrees with that statement!
I validate their feelings but I teach them about how to express themselves and how to be polite. Azita knows that she has to talk to us if she wants something.
The older the kids get, the more challenging this becomes.
You take your children from babies who can only cry to verbally tell you something is wrong, to a walking, talking five-yaer-old yelling back at you “I don’t want to talk to you right now! No, you’re not sorry!”
It’s a fine line between teaching them how to respectfully communicate, and yet letting them know that their feelings and emotions are okay.
I think my attitude and philosophy about this works pretty well. We still have times where we are all stressed, snapping at each other and are not living up to my ideals.
But you know what? I actually don’t sweat it. People make mistakes all the time, and another thing I have to teach my kids is forgiving us and each other when we make mistakes.
I ended the blog post there this morning but didn’t get a chance to publish it.
It’s interesting, reading it now, because just today we ran into a situation where an adult was too upset to acknowledge Azita’s apology after a conflict with her son.
He was wearing a baseball cap. Azita ran up and took it off his head. I didn’t see it. I don’t know how rough it was. Then she apparently said that he smells like ‘dog poo’. I’ve never, ever heard her say this, and she says she didn’t (I think she was copying something she heard a few minutes before and thought it was funny. I’m really not sweating it. Kids say things).
But that, combined with the hat thing, and this mom got really upset. I don’t know why she didn’t tell me what was happening. She ran up and grabbed her child and moved him to a different area. I asked if Azita had done something and she recounted the scenario.
I talked to Azita about it and told her that she made this lady very upset and that she should apologize. (Her son is just two and didn’t seem fazed by any of it). At first I thought she didn’t hear her. But then it became evident she was ignoring Azita on purpose, and saying some pretty passive-agressive things to her son, quite obviously within my hearing.
I tried not to let it ruin my day, but honestly, it almost did. This is a mom I’ve known for about a year and talked on the phone with. When we left, about an hour later, I told her to apologize again because the lady was obviously quite upset. She now responded to her and talked to her about it.
Oh well. I mean, I understand being upset and not ready to talk about it. I guess this was the case. And I remember when Azita was little, feeling pretty “Mama Bear”ish when it seemed an older child was about to run all over her. I don’t think Azita deserved that, to be honest, and I thought about telling the mom that Azita deserved the chance to apologize, seeing as there was absolutely NO malice behind her actions.
But I’m not good at confrontation, and the mom spoke to Azita when we left. Not to me though. She didn’t seem to look me in the eye.
This is part of the reason I want our kids to openly communicate with us, even when it isn’t pretty and they are over-reacting.
I’m teaching them to live in a world full of people that aren’t always good at communicating themselves. I’m teaching them to live, not to behave.
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