Updated: Nov 13, 2019
How do you see your children?
I know first hand I can describe each of my children in a few words that I think nails down who they are as individuals in any given moment: Intelligent. Strong-Willed. Funny. Bossy. Reliable. Stubborn. Artistic. Mindful. Lazy. Book Smart. Street Smart. Resourceful.
We often cast our children into playing certain roles without any actual realization of what we are doing. In Chapter 6 of How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk, we build on previous skills and take a look at "Freeing Children from Playing Rolls". Just the way a child can perceive your view of them can make them start acting that very way. Good, bad or indifferent.
If your child hears you questioning them rather encouraging or involving them- they can begin to take on the behavior of someone who "doesn't know what they are doing" or that they are "in the way". When we engage our children and give them responsibility and confidence to make their own way we are setting them up to be successful adults.
How do we do this? Below are the ideas the authors provide:
1. Look for opportunities to show the child a new picture of himself or herself.
2. Put children in situations where they can see themselves differently.
3. Let children overhear you say something positive about them.
4. Model the behavior you would like to see.
5. Be a storehouse for your child's special moments.
6. When your child behaves according to the old label, state your feelings and/or your expectations.
This week was a good week as any to try out my new found skills.
Example One: My oldest left his hoodie at school. Usually, I would be on him to make sure he looked for it tomorrow. That he had to bring it back and then (insert some infinite mom wisdom about responsibility and finances.) He would be defensive and carry around the weight of being irresponsible until bedtime. All over a damn sweatshirt.
Instead of making him feel inadequate or undependable, I just said "Those things happen. It must have been a busy day." Cut to the next day in the pick-up line, he comes running out to my car, hoodie in hand and a story about how he looked in the 'Lost in Found' and then followed it up with the idea of tying it around his waist when he gets too warm in gym class. That way when he leaves, his hoodie will come right with him and he won't have to think about it. To which I replied, "Way to take responsibility into your own hands!"
No lecture from me. No feeling like garbage. Instead, I actually treated him like an 8-year-old human being and not the 8-year-old financial planner that needed to have all of his ducks in a row.
Example Two: My daughter. She wants to be independent so badly. And through this book, I have realized that I have been more of a hindrance than an asset for growth. She sees her brothers (one older by a minute, one younger) able to do things that I may not allow her to do. For instance, my mornings used to consist of begging her to finish her breakfast, followed by my multiple reminders of her medicine, and then teeth brushing, then hair....then shoes....then a backpack. You get the idea. I wanted her to be able to feel the same independence her brothers feel.
If this book has taught me anything, it's that a nagging mother is not a successful mother.
So, after some creative thinking, I whipped up a list of things she needs to do both for her morning and evening routine. (See Below) She isn't reading yet, so I made it with pictures. I presented it to her in a sheet protector equipped with a dry erase marker so that she could check items off as she completed them. I told her that since she is growing up and is capable of doing more than it was up to her to make sure each item was completed. I also let her know we would be waking up 15 minutes earlier until we can get the process down. She was hesitant at first saying, "But I don't know how to read" and I saw the doubt creep up instantaneously. WHAT HAD I DONE?!
I had been doing everything for her and not allowing her to even have the sense that she COULD read. #MomFail.
That first night she was barreling through her list. Checking items off left and right. She was in control. The next morning, her alarm went off. I watched from the hallway as she shot out of bed, smiling and ready to tackle her list. Every day this week she has been done anywhere from 15- 20 minutes early. Allowing our mornings to have spontaneous dance breaks in the kitchen and extra snuggles before school. The best part? She sees herself differently. She knows she is independent and has time management skills. She is confident enough to ask for help when needed. She is far more than I was allowing her to be.
My own perceived notions of what I thought she needed were so off base and just plain wrong. I had cast her in the role of "incapable". Shame on me.
I could go on and on (and on) with practical examples this book has provided and my own positive experiences with them but I will spare you the details in hopes you feel compelled to work through this book yourself. It has been a game-changer in the way I parent and the way I interact across all of my relationships. Our job is NOT to place people into categories or roles. Our job as humans is to look for and affirm the best in others.
Still not convinced? Read this book and then compare your own childhood to the experiences and stories. You will have enough material to cast actual roles for a sitcom on ABC, guaranteed.
The Lists I made: