Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don’t you dare talk back to me...

I must have heard that phrase a million times as a child. I still remember the frustration those words caused me. I was never quite able to understand why the adults could say whatever they wanted while the children were supposed to remain silent. What the adults had to say was important, but what I had to say was just as important. That confused little girl inside of me still wants to know why adults never listen.

A great deal of my parenting philosophy in general revolves around the promise that I will do nothing to my children that I do not want done to me. They have a right to be treated with respect regardless of their age or status. They are just as human as the adults in the house, and I try to remember that.

But, I am still Mommy. Mommy has to maintain some authority over the household of the kids will not listen at all. Giving them the freedom to be their own human beings and still maintaining the role as vice-president of the house. They have a right to be heard, but there will be times in every home when tempers will flare. Words will be said. People will argue.

I get a lot of comments on my parenting style, and this is the one I hear most often. You can’t let them talk back to you like that. As a parent, this has been one of my biggest struggles. Defining what is, and what is not back talk.

We don’t often come to the level of yelling in our home, but it does happen. when it does, the conversation is over. We end it right there, and continue it after everyone has had some time to cool down. It seems to eliminate any problems we might have with a lot of what most people would consider back-talk.

If I interrupt an argument, my goal is not to simply end the argument, it is to solve the problem. Most of the time, I trust the kids to work it out with minimal intervention on my part. I encourage them to explain to me and to the other person how they feel about the situation and the result they would like to see. I ask them to listen to one another and try to understand. They are usually able to reach some sort of agreement. They will meet in the middle.

The only time I find that we have a real problem with back talk is when someone feels their rights are being ignored. When they are being forced to do something that they feel is unfair. When they don’t feel that they’ve been heard. When they feel their status as co-human in the home slipping.

So whenever possible, I try to encourage them to express their frustrations. Allowing them to have their say doesn’t mean I agree with them. It just means that I care enough about their humanness to hear them out.

There are those who criticize me for my lack of action, for allowing my children to speak as adults. And there are those who compliment me on my patience with my children, for allowing them to speak as fellow human beings. Some will judge me for it, but as far as I am concerned it is working.

A healthy adult conversation requires two people who respect one another enough to hear each other out and come to a compromise. So, it just seems logical to me that my children be allowed to practice this principle now, while they are with me. A persons age should have nothing to do with their right to be heard.

Or maybe that’s just me...


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