Monday, 14 March 2016

Three Things your Parents said that You Need to Start Saying More

We parents live in a complicated world. If the trending parenting experts are to be believed, we may all  be but one linguistic error away from a lifetime's worth of therapy bills for our children. For example, you wouldn't want your words to imply in any way that your son was disrespectful when he stomped on his sister's mother's day craft, so you are sure to specify that, though his behavior was disrespectful, he, as a person, is still wonderful, worthy, and entirely lovable.  Just in case all events leading up to this had made that unclear. Or you must remember to preface every item of constructive feedback (formerly criticism) with at least two praise phrases in order to thwart any propensity toward under-achievement. And heaven forbid, you call his private parts by the wrong name—lifetime of gender identity issues, for sure! Tsk tsk.
In short, if the trending parenting experts are anything to be believed, our parents had it all wrong. Their reckless use of language coupled with the sheer abandon with which they doled out all manners of punishment (oh, that nasty, nasty word) have indeed left their ugly scar on our entire generation—one that we will spend the next 40 years healing and that we will surely not pass on to our children. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating just a tad. Or maybe, just maybe, we have a thing or two to learn from our parents’ simplistic and lackadaisical use of the English language as it applies to everyday parenting. Consider the three following short but sweet phrases that you probably heard from your parents a time of two. I’m going to take the position that maybe they have their place in parenting after all and, who knows, might even serve to make your life a little easier.

1. Because I said so—Remember that one? 'We're going to church, kids.' 'But why, dad?' 'Because I said so.' (Cue whining) I can’t wait to try this one on! I'm going to consider this my permission to not feel obliged to engage in 10 minute unpleasant and largely pointless arguments every time one of my kids asks a 'why' question. Like...
'Toys stay out of the kitchen.' 'But, why, mom?' 'Because I said so.' Or
'No lego in mommy and daddy's room.' 'Why not? Because I said so.' Or, how about?
'Don’t bother packing any devices to take to the cabin.' 'Why?’ ‘Hmm. Lemme think. Oh, because I said so.'
Give your kids some credit! 99% of the time, when they ask a ‘why’ question of this variety, they already know the answer. They just don’t like it, so unless you’re open to negotiation, invest your breath on something else. Why not try this? ‘…because I said so. Hey, how did your presentation go today?’ If you think about it, you’ll be doing them a favor. Asserting that you do not always need to justify your agenda to others will encourage them to do the same.

2. No.  What a great word. NO! Oops, did I already say that? And as a f*ck you to all the modern parenting expert voices in my head that have never really allowed me to enjoy its power...NO, no, no no, no, no, no, and NOOOOOO! Aaaah, that feels good! NOOOOOOOOO!!
In all seriousness though, I think that the taboo around the word 'no' in our generation of parents is of serious disservice to our children. I've said it before, but I'll say it again. 'No'...our children need to say it, mean it, hear it, and heed it. It is beautifully powerful and certain.
'Hey mom, can we get a playstation?' 'No. It's expensive and bad for you.'
'Hey mom, can we watch a movie when JJ gets here?' 'No, it's a beautiful day.'
'Hey mom, can I go to the Bieber concert?' 'Nope.'

If reasoning fails you when the inevitable 'whys' start flying back at you, refer to point 1, and with any luck, they will have the courage to answer in kind when...
Hey, Oliver, do you want a puff? or
Genevieve, if you sneak out, I'll pick you around the corner at 11...

3.  You're fine.  Remember when you scraped your back on that barbed-wire fence, and your mom had a quick look and replied quite plainly, 'You're fine.'?
Well, there is a trend in modern parenting that, for lack of a better term, I will coin watering trauma. The way I see it, when parents over-react in whatever way to a situation--and this can be anything from long counselling sessions about today’s disagreement over toy-sharing, to extended explanations for regular daily occurrences to extensively coddling screaming and crying, you are watering what may well be just an ordinary childhood hurt and growing it into a trauma. Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not talking ignoring abuse or implying that one should NEVER coddle or reassure their child...I'm talking about things like this…
'Oh, you didn't get your hot lunch money in on time, and you won't get pizza next Thursday? You're fine.'
'You didn't get to sit in your favorite chair beside daddy today at breakfast? I’ll check your pulse, but I’m pretty sure you're fine. Maybe tomorrow.' or
'Your sister got two turns in a row in the pink booster seat? You're fine. Go play'

I could go on and on, but, in my opinion, the longer you engage in these types of interactions, the more you are reinforcing to your child that these things really are a big deal and worthy of getting upset over. And, let’s face it, this world leaves no shortage of things to get upset about, so, if the going situation doesn’t matter so much, let your words and engagement reinforce that.

As a rule, I would say that as parent I am acting on one of two things:
  1. The best interests of my kids, and
  2. My own sanity, which, let’s face it, is also in the best interest of my kids.
So with that in mind, I’m just going to swallow my guilt, stuff down that feeling that I’m messing up my kids with every minor semantic error, and I’m going to simplify. Yeah, that’s right, I’m going try on the careless language of my parents’ generation. Maybe it will go down something like this…

O: Hey Mom, can I pack the Ipad to take to the cabin?
Me: No. (note: not in my best interest)
O: Why not?
Me: Because I said so.
O: But I'll get bored.
Me: You'll be fine.
O: But, last time we...
Me: (breaking into spontaneous song) This is a song that never ends♪♪
O: …but you said…
Me: It goes on and on my friends! Some people started singing it...♫

What’s the worst that can happen?

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