Reality Parenting


jillJust the other day I was reading a post on a Facebook board in which a young mother asked “how do I teach my kids not to hit each other?” This is a board which is respectful of children, peaceable, and in general kind, and home to the type of people I like hanging around with. She said she talked to her kids, both under the age of 5, and said to them “We don’t hit.”

I’ve also been reading Byron Katie recently, who says that when you argue with reality you’ll always lose.

So my first reaction on reading this woman’s post was to snort, and think “Well, clearly we DO hit!” Obviously, she’s stating something that, however well-intended, is blatantly untrue.

I remember being one of those moms, when my kids were little. “We don’t throw food.” “We don’t put nursing pads on the dog (really).” I guess it was kind of the royal we, like I was the Queen of England, or just a civilian with a huge stick up my ass. At best, looking at it from the perspective of a child, it must have been totally confusing for them. I’m telling them, in present tense, that we don’t do something that is clearly not matching reality. How this has to do with any expectation for the future is totally not obvious.

At worst, it’s dishonest. Why not say “I don’t want you to hit your sister,” or “Please keep your food on your plate.” Dealing with reality means you need to say what you mean (and mean what you say) instead of firehosing your personal desire into a general statement meant to apply to everyone and warp reality to your whim. “We clean up after dinner” just isn’t fair, and not always accurate. Why not say “Would you please help me clean up after dinner?”

In my experience, that works the best — unless they’re off hitting each other or balancing things on the pets.