Originally written for Franklin Goose, an organic baby store in Richmond, VA. Published on Franklin Goose’s blog, September 11, 2013. Written under maiden name Emily Harris. (link).
The other day while I was visiting my sister and niece, I got in trouble. I said something was “crap,” My sister had decided she did not want that word used around her daughter and told me so. I was surprised at how strongly my sister reacted because I had not considered that word as bad; however, after I thought about it, I realized that it was a negative and crass term to use.
I started thinking about the other words I choose to use, some rather carelessly, and I have decided that it’s time for me to watch what I say and what I do. I especially want to make sure that my niece learns to treat others with respect, and I know that I will be just one of the many people from whom she will learn.
Think Before You Speak
Children are always observing, and they will learn from those closest to them how to treat other people. How do you speak to your partner? Do you ever call him or her a negative name, even in jest? While those in on the joke might know you mean no harm, if your son or daughter happens to speak to another child the same way, it probably will offend that child.
Listen to how you speak to your loved ones. Would you want your child to speak to them that way? Would you want them to speak to you that way?
Think Before You React
How do you react when you are angry? Think about that for a minute. Would you want your child to act the same way to you? Would you want your child to act that way to another child?
How do you react in other situations, not just ones that cause you anger? When I am teased, I will sometimes respond by punching the person teasing me on the arm. It’s not a hard punch, just a light tap, but my niece does not know her own strength. Should she imitate me, she might hurt another child, and not just physically.
My niece is very grabby. She likes to reach out and grab necklaces, glasses, and noses, and man, can those little fingers pinch. Because she grabs at adults and babies, we have started telling her to be gentle. “Be gentle with the baby,” we’ll say, or, “Be gentle with Auntie.” My niece listens and responds by patting and stroking the other person with an open hand. She sometimes pats a little hard, but hey, at least she’s trying! My nose can take it.
Accentuate The Positive
As your child grows, build up his or her strengths. What is your child really good at? What interests him or her? Encourage your child to grow in their talents. Find ways to motivate them. If your son enjoys coloring, introduce him to other art projects. If your daughter has a dramatic flair, ask her to tell you stories at bedtime or put on plays to entertain the grown ups at Thanksgiving. Take an interest in your child’s interests.
Look at their attributes, too. Is your daughter patient? Does your son like to help you around the house? Encourage theses traits in your children, and find ways to help them strengthen areas that they are weak in.
Encourage your child to also see and celebrate the strengths in others. Learning kindness and compassion will encourage them to respond positively to other children when they go out in the world to daycare and preschool.
Eliminate The Negative
There’s a lot of talk today about bullying, and it’s hard to think that one day my niece will more than likely be picked on by her peers. It’s even harder to think that she could possibly bully someone else. However, I know from my own childhood experiences that being a bully is scarily easy. I would not consider myself a mean person, but I can think of 2 different people that I truly didn’t like at school. At the time, my actions towards those people were done out of a sense of self-preservation, but now that I’m older, I realize that I can’t excuse my behavior: I bullied those 2 girls. And I did it because I was insecure.
I had a negative perception of myself and of those 2 girls, so to protect myself I made the choice to hurt someone else. I hope that as my niece grows she will have a healthy and strong self-esteem. That she will know who she is and be strong enough that the words and actions of others will not damage her. I also hope that my niece will learn respect and to look for the good in others so that when she feels threatened, she will respond with kindness and not hate, with compassion and not cruelty.