"Put away the scissors, please."
A simple instruction, made politely but, still, an instruction (not a request), spoken in a tone of kindness. Simple, yes?
As a teacher in the Youth Church at Center for Spiritual Living-St. Louis, I give instructions like this every Sunday morning. I've given thousands of similar-sounding instructions to youngsters across my decades of life, as a preschool teacher and director, auntie and now great-auntie, godmother, and friend-of-the-parent. Mostly, children have complied.
Young children are amazing, if we allow them to be. Look what they can do!
This photo shows a model of a neighborhood in University City, in the St. Louis metro. Bordered by streets with painted lanes, this little urban patch contains buildings, a park baseball diamond, vehicles, and the children's own early education program, Urban Sprouts Child Development Center.
Two true stories today, modified only to protect the reputations of the innocent.
Story 1. In the holiday-crowded aisle of a big box store, a three-year-old girl, with her mouth wrapped around three fingers of one hand, reaches up her other to grasp her mother's hand, trying to pluck it off the hem of the hanging garment Mom is examining. With a snarled, "Stop it. I'm busy," Mom smacks away the child's hand. The child begins to wail a thin, keening cry around the fingers still in her mouth.
One of my most popular entries on this blog was "Full Moon Blues." I decided to re-read it and see whether I could discover the secret sauce that made it so atttractive to so many readers. I'm still not sure I know.
What I did discover is that I predicted a "step 2" blog post. I had advised you to become more self-aware about what you tell the children in your life, about who and what they are -- the labels you put on them, like shy, wild, hyper, or stubborn.
One of the many sources of shame in my childhood was my mother's regular disappointment with my inability to handle my personal care to her standards. From hygiene to care of my clothing and personal space, I was consistent only in my lack of skills and, well...consistency.
Why couldn't I do what she expected? Why can't your kids get those routines of self-care programmed in place and then just carry on? Why do you have to hover, remind, and nag?
I recently read that therapist Pittman McGehee states the opposite of love is not hate, but efficiency (according to Peter Block).
The words hit me dead center in my heart and I knew I had to write about this statement, which I fear is too often deeply true for young children. Especially, reading this statement so soon after a related conversation on Facebook with a friend seemed a call to speak more widely.
The opposite of love is efficiency. Speed. Git 'er done. Move it, mister. We're late. Check that box. Movin' on.
"My anxiety and I have just learned to live together. She is the longest relationship I have ever had." ~~ Jae Nichelle, from her spoken-word poem, "My Anxiety is Like a Friend-With-Benefits"
How do we avoid being "that" parent or "that" teacher -- the one who plants the seeds of anxiety in the early years?
I mean, we can't pretend that none of us is this kind of adult. Otherwise, why do half of all anxiety disorders begin as early as age 8?
How many times have you heard a parent or teacher of young children say that? I believe it may be their second-most repeated phrase, right after, "I'm so tired."
Here's what picking battles looks like sometimes. This is Grace, eating lunch with socks on her hands. I pounced on this photo after her mom posted it on Facebook, and use it here with permission. (Disclaimer: Both Grace and her mom are members of my extended family.)
I recently saw and shared this great meme on Facebook. With some editing liberties, it said:
When we only look at behavior, we stop seeing the child. We look only with the intention to judge: will we reward or punish the behavior? "When we look behind the behavior, we see that little struggling human...who needs our help with something." ~Rebecca Eanes