The Way I Talk to My Kids Matters.

the-girls

 

 

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.

Why.

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.

 

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About the Author

Lehla is an illustrator and an author of books, she has written for The Guardian. She trained as an actress at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She wrote The South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women and she illustrated a kid’s book by M.J. Amani called ‘Excuse Me, I’m Trying to Read’ and also ‘I am Me, You, Us and We’ by Caroline Trowbridge. Above all she is a mother to three fast growing kids, she juggles her time between them and working on new books and projects. She has recently co authored with Anthony ‘Jump’, Fall, Fly – from schooling, to homeschooling, to unschooling’ Her art work can be seen at http://lehlaeldridge.wix.com/lehla-

5 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Crystal says:

    This is really great advice. So, how would you navigate things like dinner…say, if they didn’t want to eat anything but dessert? Or, things like if they never want to brush their teeth or take a bath? What’s the angle to take when addressing them so that you can get them to do what needs to be done…but without doing it in an overbearing and rude way? Thanks!

  2. That is a brilliant question! Navigating dinner when they only want to eat dessert… I would talk about what happens when you only eat desert. I would provide information so that they can get to understand the bigger picture. The same with teeth. Without scaring them, I would explain the facts. It also depends on their age but even small kids can start to understand bigger concepts. This is such a good point that you raise. My husband took our son out the other day and he let our son lead, he wanted to eat popcorn, ice cream and a sweet drink, my husband said ‘Yes’ to everything. On the way home my husband and my son felt really really sick. They both arrived home looking a bit white. They both agreed that doing what they did wasn’t the best thing to do and now my son has that knowledge that eating too much rubbish food makes him feel really sick, so he found out that knowledge for himself. Does this help in anyway?

  3. Am curious as to how old your kids are, then I could get more of a sense as to what my come from point would be. If that makes sense.

  4. Crystal says:

    Ah yes, I have 5: 6, 8 and 12 year old sons, and a 10 & 13 year old daughter. Thank you for your insight!

  5. Wow! Congratulations! I think even with the smaller ones I would apply the same logic however if they really aren’t in a place to understand I would make the bath, teeth brushing etc interesting, if that is possible. If there is a fun reason for doing something then they are more inclined to do it.

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