Yesterday I told The Blitz, "Be a better baby! Be a better baby!" I said it because I like the rhythm of alliteration. Normally I say, "Make a wise choice!" or, "Be a good friend," or "Share with your sister, please." This clear departure from the usual patter caught Pepper's attention.
She called me on it. "Why did you say that mom? Why didn't you just say, 'Be good!'"?
"I don't want to label him as good or bad. I am asking for what I want. I am being specific. I am trying to raise a kid who thinks and not just one who tries to stay out of trouble. We can't be 'good' but we can be 'better." Sometimes we can make a 'wiser' choice but we can't always make a 'good' one. I am trying to make it do-able."
She pondered this a minute. "Well, I remember being little and you saying "Make a wise choice" and me thinking, 'She wants me to be good.'"
Hmmm. Perhaps there is such a thing as too "enlightened parenting." I'm not sure. I have to ponder it a bit.
Both Pepper and Sunshine are "good kids." We say it all the time -- though not to them.
To them, we say, "You are thoughtful. We trust you to make wise decisions. Your schoolwork reflects your hard work. You're responsible. You're a hard worker. You are beautiful inside and out -- and the insides are what count the most. You're a good friend."
Yet, even though we tried to raise them differently, I'm not sure we did. It's thinly veiled, at best. It's clearly human nature to label things. I see it in "the Littles" all the time.
They don't get all this from me (though I can imagine the fingers pointing!) It is in them. We have religiously avoided the label "bad" with all "our" kids -- and yet it is one of the first words each of these "Littles" have said. A child who makes a "poor choice" is frequently chastised by one of the other two as "bad, bad." No amount of ignoring or protesting on our part has changed this. And even though they've not heard the word from us in 8 months, they still know it and use it!
I don't think this revelation will necessarily change my parenting style --but a dose of reality sweetly administered by a wiser-than-her-years 14 year old is certainly useful. Food for thought.