My tot and I were getting on a carousal and as we were settling on the white tiger she chose and just that moment I overheard something that made me cringe.
There was a young girl around age 8, that was contently sitting on the ornate carousal bench. Her mom was behind the fence yelling with disapproval in her voice, “Why are you sitting there??!”, “Why don’t you sit on a horse?!”, “That’s boring!!”, “Fine…Whatever (eyes rolling)!”.
I was wondering if this woman was intentionally wanting to create doubt in her daughter’s ability to choose or humiliate her. Children look up to their parents and if this type of communication is normal, one of the many detriments could result in crippling a child to trust her own ability to choose. Why would this mom choose to steal her daughter’s joy, over watching her daughter genuinely enjoy the ride? Does she really think this kind of inquisition communication was going to build a bond of mutual respect with her daughter? Does she really want her daughter to be a carbon copy of her, who makes her mom’s identical choices in life?
After reading Alfie Kohn’s, Naomi Aldort’s and other progressive parenting books, I have been inspired to not intervene or extend judgement communication to my tot. I am definitely still a beginner and do correct myself. I do my best to avoid tempting statements that express my thoughts and focus on stating the facts.
– Instead of, “Oh, that is pretty.”, I may say, “Oh, that flower is a deep red color!”
– Instead of “Ewww, that is yucky.”, I say, “That is covered in bacteria and it would be best to wash your hands.”
– Instead of “That is dress is beautiful on you.”, I choose, “You picked out the fluffy, pink dress to wear!”
– Instead of “Good job!”, I will state my observations, “You drew five flowers and they are purple!”
Yes, it takes more effort and intention to state facts, but I am doing this so my tot will not look to me to label and determine what is pretty, dirty or beautiful, good or bad. She can determine her own preferences over time without my influence, through her own feelings and experiences, which seems to be the natural expression of a child. Children are naturally observant and curious, self-taught explorers and fact finders. They don’t look at things as pretty, yucky, beautiful, good or bad. They want to know how things work, how to tear them apart and put them back together and do it again and again until it is mastered. They are true to themselves and choose what attracts them or are drawn to the perceived fun, whether it is familiar or not. Children don’t start out pondering, “Will my parent or friends approve of my choice?”, such as the girl choosing the carousal bench.
Eventually, with constant disapproval, it is often said that children sometimes becomes the rebel or the approval seeker. Either scenario is a compromise of self, whether one expresses being rebellious or focuses on pleasing people to feel accepted. Both of these scenarios are paths that can result in losing touch with one’s true essence…..one’s true uniqueness. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all allowed our little ones to experience and express their authenticity, without our labeling or judgement? If the mom I overheard is reading this, maybe next time the little girls mom will simply say, “You chose the ornate carousal bench. How about if we sit there together?”