When she is told to be a ‘good girl’, it is assuming that she can also be ‘bad’. What exactly ‘Bad’ entails is completely in the eye of the beholder. We see ‘bad’ in all sorts of experiences in our daily lives. Children hear us relaying things we have read about, or seen or are listening to our interpretations of events that are all seemingly ‘bad’, and generally its pretty ‘bad’ if we are all talking about it. So why is it, that children are so often told to ‘be good’ by the people who care about them, implying that they must be capable of being ‘bad’, otherwise what is the point for mentioning it at all. It is patronising to children that we so easily hold them to such unwarranted judgments. It is pretending to be loving and kind in deliverance but really its just condescending superiority. Adults would never say this to each other, it wouldn’t be accepted by any means, and it’s not necessary for children either. Our interactions with children have become thoughtless, just repetitive habitual words, that we think have no real meaning or impact. Except they do. I don’t tell my children to ‘be good’, but they have heard this enough already in their interactions with others to know that this wins praise. Children are intelligent. My daughter will intentionally do things for the praise. She does ask ‘am i a good girl?’ after completing something, not often, but it happens, and it’s hard one to over come once the mindset has already been established. The truth is, there is no good or bad in children. They are just children learning to maneuver their way through their experiences and emotions. Most of the time my children are outwardly honest in their deliverance of their feelings and that can raise some awkwardness in the moment, usually because honesty is not what the recipient is expecting to hear. Their opinions haven’t been filtered or moulded to fit some false sociably acceptable standard. Their opinions are respected and they are learning that they are valued for them even in their indifference. How we can help others to understand this better, I’m still trying to work this out. My children are not obedient, because I don’t expect they should be.
What do we trade when we prioritise obedience over our children’s needs, mistakes or messy emotions? -Raised Good, parenting by nature
This doesn’t mean that they are ‘bad’. They simply have choices, and most of the time they make the ‘right’ ones for themselves. They are learning that certain choices they make wont bring them their desired outcomes, eventually they’ll make a different choice. It requires more patients and more compassion and understanding. It requires that we be present in the moment with our children. Admittedly, it’s is definitely easier to take control over their lives and autonomy. It is definitely easier to play the role of the boss and dictate their days to them. Telling them when to eat, sleep, bathe, work, play, talk, listen or who to be nice to, etc…Its definitely easier to tell them what to do rather than ask them if it is what they are wanting.
My children are more often than not outspoken, meaning they don’t think to hold their thoughts back on any situation, especially ones they themselves are directly impacted by. They are defiantly clear about what it is they are wanting and what it is they do not. They are unafraid to use their voices, and they don’t easily abide towards domination, manipulation or any other techniques that degrades or undermines their usually valued opinions. They wont simply hand out respect if it’s not warranted. And this can be somewhat unsettling, if you’re not expecting it, especially when it is coming from a five-year old. Are they ‘Bad’ children, No. Should they do what they are told to do, simply because someone tells them to? I don’t think so. Understandably, this is a tough notion to consider. But i would prefer that my children risk politeness for honesty and remain true to their feelings, than to deny themselves that right, in fear of being socially unaccepted by the opinions of others. There are many ways we could be interacting with children that doesn’t entail making them feel inferior or imply that they are incapable of making good and safe decisions for themselves.
“The reality that adults have more power than children, however, does not mean that it is appropriate or necessary for us to exercise control over them. Rather, it means that we have an obligation to consciously choose how to use our power. We can choose to use our greater power to control children and coerce them to do what we want. We can choose to do nothing with our power. But we can also choose to use our power to support, assist, and facilitate the growth and learning of children in ways that affirm their personal power, dignity, and humanity.” -Teresa Graham Brett
We could be making ourselves clearer to children about what we are desiring, explain ourselves better without the authoritarian overtones. We could be offering them a range of possible outcomes to consider, before making decisions for them. And we could allow ourselves to think about it a little more deeply and question our own concerns with needing a certain outcomes. Possibly, we should be asking ourselves more often, does it really matter? We could stop opting for the quick, go to, fix ‘do what i am asking of you and do it now.’ We could opt out of needing to power struggle with children.
My children are strong and independent, this strategy never works on them and i would never wish it to. They are learning that people aren’t always sincere with their words and in their actions. It must be incredibly confusing for children, when their well-being is so conditioned to only having particular outcomes and behaviours, deemed to be acceptable. It still bewilders me, that children are so often condemned for their natural feelings and emotions, it is asking children to deny feeling parts of themselves, simply because they may be causing undesirable attention.
We know that the way we are moving is not the norm, we know that its unconventional. The easier path would be to compel ourselves, despite our instinctual knowing and follow the less confrontational path. We could accept the ‘normalised’ and ‘expected’ way to raise children, without ever questioning it, even if it doesn’t feel right. But thankfully, that’s not our journey. I’m strongly in favour for questioning what has gone before us and i’m thankful that i’m raising children that will without a doubt question everything that comes before them, before taking it on as their truth at face value.