Simply put, if you talk to them with respect, they flourish.
I don’t want to go for a long walk.
Yes but you have to.
Because I said so.
If you said that to me you might piss me off.
Finish everything that is on your plate.
That also might irritate me.
Just do as I say.
At that point, I would grab my coat and I probably would not come back and visit you.
This is the way a lot of children get talked to and I get it. Sometimes I just want the kids to do as I say. They don’t want to, sometimes I don’t want to negotiate. But then if I am barking orders at them what am I teaching them? To be people that bark orders at someone else. That I am the boss? That as an adult I have a complete God given right to be rude to them?
The difference between telling your child what to do and figuring it out democratically is huge. I have had to retrain my brain. I have had to do the mental T’ai Chi leap when the conditioned me just wants to say ‘Because I said so!’ But I have done it, I have re figured my thinking and it has become easier and we have a mutual respect for each other.
Not always though. The other day I think I found myself saying to our girls the equivalent of ‘simmer down’ I used to HATE being told to ‘simmer down’ I have spent years having to remember to ‘simmer up.’
My girls looked at me and had their hands on their hips and said, ‘are you trying to teach us to not be ourselves?’ Mental T’ai Chi came over me again as I thought about all the reasons I was telling them to change who they were being. It was late, I was tired I had a strong feeling they were right. I wanted them to turn their volume down precisely because I was struggling with a situation but in that same moment I was proud that they took me on. I could see the women they were becoming, and the bigger part of me thought ‘Rock on’ and I am not the sort of person to ever say say ‘rock on.’
As an unschooling/democratic parent I have learned to take leaps around my inner scripted stuff. To stop before I snap something stupid. I do not always succeed like when this week I accidentally wound up the car window with my daughter’s head trapped in it, it was not my best parenting moment. Fear made me shout something mean at her. I apologized, once I had, erm… simmered down.
So if you want to ask me to come for a long walk with you, I may or I may not, depending on where and when we were going. I would need more information.
If you wanted me to finish everything on my plate, I am sorry but those words would probably make me lose my appetite.
And as for ‘do as I say’…well, you can figure that one out…
In this way of bringing up the kids I am hoping that we can teach them that they have a strong right to be who they are, that their presence is valued in this world, as is their voice and their existence. It is these children who will be our future adults. They are seriously worth investing in.