Saturday, May 05, 2007

You Just Can't Reason With 'Em

I've heard parents say throughout my life many, many times that "You can't reason with kids."
Or "It's like trying to reason with a two year old."

Well, I'd like to say, for the record, "I disagree."
I reason with my children anywhere from one to fifty times a day, probably.
That's not cajoling. Or manipulating. Or domineering. Or bossing, bullying, contriving, wheedling, or whining. (though in my less shiny moments I've certainly been guilty of these a time or two - but surely no more than a hundred times in one day!)
I just communicate with them.
I reason with them.

I suppose it begins with viewing them as people worthy of respect.
It seems to me that a child who is feeling powerless and dismissed will attempt fight his way into respectability. (Much like an adult who still has fight left in them will, or an adolescent - sometimes with terrifying and devastating effects, as happened recently.) And use any tools necessary. Crying, whining, kicking and screaming, shouting, I hate you!'s, It's not fair!, You never listen!, and so forth. The parent forgets that their child is just as much a real person as their spouse or a friend. Or maybe the parent has never considered that the child is a real person.

Sometime about a year ago I was thinking of being in middle school, and the neighborhood kids that terrified me.
It was a clicquish sort of thing, I s'pose, and when, sometimes -for whatever reason I was on the outside, I was really quite terrified of them.
I would walk about a mile out of my way home from school so that I wouldn't run into them on the way home, and get beat up. I don't know if they actually would have, but I had a very real fear that they would. (I remember hearing once or twice "so-and-so wants to beat you up." I didn't understand it, and I was scared.)
Being an adult, and one that has developed self esteem, there is no way I would live with such terror now. I think about those occasions, and it makes me sad to think of it. Not for myself, really, but for that child.
And for any child that experiences such things.
Why do we adults assume that the feelings of our children are any less real than those we experience ourselves?
Emotions are emotions. Terror is terror. Rage is rage. Anger, frustration, regret, joy, excitement, sadness, impotence, it's all the same - it doesn't matter your size, for heaven's sake.
Sometimes when I do something that makes my child cry in frustration, I think "oh, that's twice today that I've made her cry!" and I feel very sad for that.
Maybe a part of it is that they're so excessive with their emotional reactions that we discount it as not as relative to real life as our own.
But I don't think that's true. I think they're just more honest than we are. They haven't learned to oppress it as we have. Some of us as children were not allowed to vent and express ourselves freely -probably most of us- and so we just criticize ourselves instead, or shove down our feelings, or have eating disorders, or become alcoholics, or have strokes or high blood pressure or swallow little blue pills or take it out on our children.

I'm not saying that I always remember to be present in each moment, and remember to act with compassion the way I want to, or that my children never holler at me or feel thoroughly dejected.
It's not easy. Just as I might react in an un-evolved way to my children, in a moment when I'm distracted or depleted; my son might not come out of his involvement in an argument or tug-of-war over something with another child very quickly.
Just as I am often into my own agenda, I have to recognize that he has a mind and a purpose of his own. His life and thoughts are not any less important than mine.

But, if I get down on my knees so that I can speak with him ( and for some reason, when I get on my knees he does, too :) , cute boy) and I say quietly, "Hey, Bud, what's going on?"
He'll stop, and say, "Oh, Mom. Well, it's just that ........" and pretty soon we have it all worked out.

I suspect that when people say "You just can't reason with 'em" what they really mean is "I just can't get this child to acknowledge that my thoughts on the subject are more important than his, and he won't recognize that I, in my All Knowing Wisdom, am right."
And if that's the case, I say "Good for your child."
Just as I say it when it when it comes from one of my own.

No comments: