My friend owns a beautiful Bentley. I am tired of my ten year old car…with all of its “character” and such…so I went over to her house and demanded that she give me her car.
I mean, she has something that I want.
Tears were shed. I may have fallen on the floor screaming. She wasn’t driving it in that moment, so obviously the car is fair game. I called my mom and demanded she tell my friend to share. It was a beautiful moment.
Except that it didn’t actually happen.
Yet this is a scenario that has played out a million times at parks, on playdates, and in my very home. Only with smaller people and smaller toys.
I am a questioner by nature, so I have a tendency to challenge the status quo. When teaching my kids principles and character, I often consider the logical conclusion of learning that behavior.
I make my kids shower because no one wants to smell a stinky kid.
I teach my kids to be kind because the world could use more kindness.
I teach my kids to make their beds because it’s a great way to start changing the world (and a made bed makes the whole room look cleaner). Not that they actually make their bed everyday.
But there are a few things we teach our children that, if carried out to their logical conclusion, do not make sense. I am sure there are many, but the two that I notice are:
1. Teaching kids to share.
2. Teaching kids not to tattle.
Let’s start with numero uno.
Adults don’t share. Sure, you may share a bite of dessert. Or share a hotel room. But for the most part, adults don’t share.
I don’t demand to drive my friend’s Bentley just because I like it.
I don’t go to my friend’s closet and take her clothes home.
I don’t see someone enjoying a mocha frapp and take a drink.
But when one of my kids has a toy the other wants, I tell them to share.
When a kid at the park wants my son’s football, I make him share it.
Even though it doesn’t make much sense, there IS a degree to which sharing develops other important character traits. So I am not saying to abandon the practice all together.
But I have tried to identify the actual character traits I hope my kids grow up to possess and change my verbiage accordingly.
I want my children to be extravagantly generous. So I teach them that if a friend asks to keep a toy that they no longer play with, say yes. (Extravagant generosity would say to give the friend the toy even if they still like it…but we are taking baby steps here.)
I want my kids to treat others the way they want to be treated. If a child at the park asks to play with their football, I suggest they could play together. Or they can show kindness and let the child borrow it.
Technically, my child is still sharing…but it’s with character traits that hold true for a lifetime.
I know this is a very subtle difference, but I find kids respond better to clearly defined expectations. “Sharing” is an ambiguous action, but kindness, generosity, and thoughtfulness are all understandable and have a clearer end point.
Does that make sense?? (If not, it’s because my children are CRAZY today, and writing is proving difficult).
The second action that does not work out to a logical conclusion is tattling.
Once again, I catch myself telling my kids, “Stop telling on each other” or “I don’t want to hear it. Just work it out.”
Tattling is constant in my home. Someone is offended at seemingly every waking moment and demands justice for every infraction. I will be honest, it gets old.
But this is the thing…when tattling becomes major, I want my kids to tell me everything. I want them to tell me if their friends are making poor choices. I want them to tell me who they’re crushing on. I want them to tell me if they’re tempted to make bad decisions. I want them to tell me if they accidentally (or purposefully) stumbled upon porn. I want them to tell on their siblings if they find out they’re being stupid.
However, if I tell them not to tattle for years and years, then why would I expect them to confide in me when it actually matters?!
This makes no sense.
I’ve only recently realized the problem with telling kids not to tattle, so I am still working on how to do this better in my home. Rather than barking at my kids (as I have a tendency to do), “Work it out. Leave me alone. I don’t care what (s)he said,” when my kids tattle, I try to take the time to teach them how to work through the issue. I want them to feel heard and understood.
I’ve realized that if my kids don’t feel heard when they’re seven, they won’t automatically trust me when they’re seventeen. (If you haven’t noticed, teens aren’t known for confiding in their parents…therefore, the parent is responsible to initiate this.)
And let it be said: I do not do this perfectly. Or anywhere close to perfect. Sometimes I am tired and don’t have the capacity to empathize and work through every issue.
I am a work in progress, just like my kids.
Teaching children to navigate this world is no joke. It takes so much time and so much energy. Some days it’s all I can do to survive until bedtime. But as my kids are getting older (and my days are getting easier in many ways), I am working to devote more time to doing my job well.
The questioner in me only wants to invest energy in what actually matters, so I have been spending considerable time figuring out what that is for my kids and me.
Not to get all philosophical, but there is value to challenging the status quo. With so much pressure and so many demands in the modern era, sifting away the unnecessary parts can enrich our daily lives.
Life is too short to spend it doing stuff just because that’s the way it’s always been.
Tell me…have you noticed any common things that we teach kids…that actually don’t make much sense??