Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What you feed grows, what you starve dies...

One of my nick-names as a child was “brat-brat,” it wasn’t said in anger, or in an attempt to insult, but it is something I swore I would never do to my children.

We have a lot of labels for our children. The smart one, the funny one, the troublemaker. It is really amazing how often they live up to those labels. The liar, the thief, the lazy one. Like they are somehow being reinforced by some unknown force. The slut, the junkie, the failure. Those labels have a way of following them throughout their lifetimes.

I would like to think that no parent would willingly label their child a slut, but believe it or not I’ve seen it happen more than once. When I was a teenager a mother I was acquainted with saw her two girls walking towards her, not yet teens, not even tweens, she looked up and greeted them. “There are my little sluts.” My jaw dropped but I didn’t know what to say.

And then there was the little boy who told me that his father had informed him that he already knew his son would grow up to be a junkie. The boy wasn’t even a teenager yet, and he doesn’t do drugs yet either. What the hell was running through this fathers mind when he said this to his own child is beyond me.

I told him that he was better than that. His dad was not the one that would make that decision. His dad was not the one who led his life. His dad had no right to say that to him. I still wonder though, whose words were stronger the words of a friend or the words of a father? Which will he remember the first time someone offers him drugs?

Our children trust us beyond a doubt. Each of those children I have mentioned also love and respect their parents very much. They want to please them, even if it means living up to those labels that have been placed upon them. Every child longs to live up to their parents expectations.

Saying something one time probably isn’t going to program their open little brains, but if we say it enough we burn an image into their brain. This is who you are. This is who you have always been. This is who you will always be.

Instead of reinforcing those negative images in their wide open little brains, I want to input positive images. When I call my youngest my little fiddle player, and my son my tech geek I am consciously turning them towards their more positive traits. When I compliment my oldest on her rationality and her strong sense of responsibility I am telling her I want to see more of THAT.

Some have assumed that my complimenting my children instead of criticizing was due to parental blindness. That I think my children are perfect. They aren’t. I am aware of those qualities that most parents see as negatives. I just don’t see the point in pushing them towards the negative when the positive traits are the ones I want to see grow.

What you feed grows, what you starve dies...

Or maybe that’s just me...