This post is part of a series documenting everyday respectful parenting moments. Reading real life parenting examples inspires me. I also find it helpful to look back on situations and think about what went well or what didn’t. Maybe you will too!
As you might have figured out by now I am of the belief that children are much wiser and more capable than we give them credit for. While the majority of people think that it is our job to very actively teach children how to behave, I believe that is unnecessary. I believe that children are inherently good and want to do the right thing. Instead of teaching and controlling behaviour, I think my job is to support them while they themselves figure out how the world works, how to deal with their emotions, and how to treat others. For example, as a rule I don’t enforce sharing. I’m not even sure what the point of ‘forced sharing’ is, what a ridiculous paradox! I would like my kids to treat others with kindness and fairness and to learn to share, but I want it to be genuine and intrinsically motivated or I don’t really see the point. Most people don’t believe this will work but time and time again I see it happening, and so, a little example from today…
Miss 6 and Miss 4 were playing dress-ups, one was a bat and one was a lion. All was going smoothly until the bat sat down for lunch, took off her gloves, and placed them beside her. The lion, seeing the coveted gloves left unguarded, seized the opportunity and pounced…
Miss 6: GIVE THEM BACK!!!! MUM!! She took my gloves.
Me: She took your gloves? I would ask for them back.
Miss 6: Can you please give the gloves back? I had them first.
The lion carried on with her business, ignoring the question.
Miss 6: You snatched my gloves! Give them back please!
The lion once again made no acknowledgement she had even heard.
Miss 6: She won’t answer me. I had them first!! She snatched them off me!
Me: You had the gloves and now she has them.
Miss 6: Yes. She SNATCHED them!!!!
Me: She took them and you weren’t finished with them?
Miss 6: Yeeeessssssssss. I only put them down to eat. She has to give them back.
Me: It sounds frustrating. You really want them back.
The lion is stalking around, still playing, and pretending not to listen.
Miss 6: (crying) She has my gloves.
Me: I can see you’re upset. You weren’t finished with the gloves, and you want her to give them back. Do you want a cuddle?
Miss 6: Yes.
She cried a bit more, I empathised, the lion continued to prowl, perhaps considering it’s options.
All of a sudden two black gloves fell onto the lounge where we were sitting from over the back.
Miss 6: She gave them back!
Me: She gave them back.
The lion then invited the bat to continue their earlier game and they happily crawled off together.
Situation resolved. I didn’t need to ‘do’ anything except listen and empathise. I could have instead took charge and insisted Miss 4 give the gloves back right now and I know exactly what would have happened, because I have done it before in frustration. Miss 4 would have refused, and gotten angry. That would have made me need to physically take the gloves and give them back. She would have then cried and stormed off angry at me. The focus would have been totally shifted from her actions and feelings and conscience to what I am making her do. Instead, by just supporting them through their disagreement Miss 4 was able to come to her own conclusions. She gave the gloves back because she realised it was the right thing to do. She developed empathy and felt empowered to make her own choice and effect the outcome. That’s definitely an opportunity I wouldn’t want to take away from her.