Updated: Feb 24, 2022
"You better not shout, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm telling you why..." you know he's watching you while you sleep and all your actions- if you aren't "good" he won't be bringing any presents. We all grew up with similar phrases and of course love singing songs like Santa Clause is Coming to Town, but I do notice with some of the words, my 4 year old is starting to give me an eyebrow lift.
We are all familiar with threenagers- opinionated, sass, attitude, and lots of gumption, but where do those threenager traits stop and the deeper emotions begin? I know for us we've been saying the term for quite some time and Momma is starting to think we are on to something- we just may have a little cherub who is a bit more sensitive, inquisitive, and need time to process things. You'd never know it with her fearless take on life, but deep down, there's definitely someone who needs some time to be truly understood.
Yes, I know...call me a mom making excuses for behaviors, a push over, or just too darn all over her kids, but I've seen this before with other kiddos in the classroom. I can definitely have the patience to deal with that, but what I don't have the patience with are the terms that I keep hearing thrown around for kiddos such as this..."you're a naughty one..." "be a good girl..." "be good or else..."
What is with that? What are we teaching our kids when we tell them that if they don't act a certain way, they are no longer "good" in our eyes? I know that many do not mean for the words to be taken in that way, but you have to think in terms of their language. I'm going back to some Nel Noddings in educational theory here, but we are basically telling them to perform in a certain way, to be seen in a positive way in our eyes. How's that much different from talking to a four-legged critter when we use those terms "good ____" or "bad _____." Call me crazy, but I cringe at the word "naughty." It just doesn't serve a higher purpose and seems so derogatory.
For some it's a cultural thing, it's a word just thrown around and has been said in that way for decades, but sometimes we have to ask ourselves if we'd talk to another adult in this way? It's essentially no different than name-calling. They may be younger than us, but they aren't dumb and I see that on my girl's face every time someone tells her a drawing isn't good enough, she needs to be "good" or "stop crying." Momma bear bites her tongue, but it's all I can do to not shout "let the girl cry if she wants to!!"
Back in my masters courses, we had discussions about this deeply and how when we are telling them to be "good" they start to see themselves as bad children for any mistakes they make...a wrong equation, improper grammar, or accidentally shoving a kid too hard in a game of tag. We all make mistakes, and isn't that what we want our children to learn? Their behavior might be unsatisfactory or not what we expect, but we need to make that clear by being specific.
Next time someone comes up to your child and says some of those ugly words, suggest that they try wording it a little differently to your child....
* I hear you're upset, let's take a minute to take some deep breaths and when you're ready to talk, we are here for you
* I notice you have a lot of energy, let's go outside to let some of that out so you can better focus
* Do you need my help? Are you ok?
* If we cannot follow our expectations, then we will need to revisit our consequence
Have set expectations. Review consequences and those expectations. Be clear, firm, but warm with your kiddos. If someone else steps in and is using some of these ugly words, assist them with better language. We have to stand up for our kiddos because at this age believe it or not, they are starting to understand their place in the world and deserve to be surrounded by nothing but warmth, positivity, and love. That doesn't mean we don't hold them accountable when needed, but that means something different for each child.
Most littles don't want to purposefully act out, it's just their way of asking for something or reacting to a certain situation. They may not have the words or understanding yet to know they need your assistance. It's our job as adults to try and see that. When newer adults, and especially those who do not have young ones are around, we're going to have to explain that to them gently.
With the holiday season, family and friends visiting, a pandemic still in our midst, it's a lot for kiddos to process. They may seem fine, but it might come out in other ways. Be gentle with yourself and those around you- don't be afraid to step in when you know your kiddos need you, and explain to those around how they can support rather than make the situation worse.
You know them better than anyone else, you've got this!
Breathe. Sip. And know we've got your back!