Monday, August 3, 2009

Take the Words Right Out of My Mouth: "I guess you disagree."

originally posted at Reepicheep's Coracle

I've decided to start a series of posts where I talk about some words I use in lots of parenting situations. If I have some phrases stored up, often I will use them instead of the poor parenting that plays in my head sometimes. So, I hope these phrases will be helpful to you in the same way.

The phrase of the day is: "I guess you disagree."

You'd think this was a throw away phrase, one you'd use in some touchy- feely corporate meeting about how to get along with your team. You'd think any two reasonable persons would know when they clearly disagree. Here is where children often completely miss that reasonable thing.

An example:

I hear an altercation in Jenn's playroom (where our two daughters are playing together), so I go to investigate. The two are clearly getting more and more worked up.

Me: Is there a problem in here?
Morgan: (mournfully) She says ponytails hurt!!!
Livy: (yelling in agony) They do hurt!!! She says they don't!!!!
Me: I guess you two disagree.

There is a pause while they look at each other, deciding if I am making any sense. Then the tension dissipates, and they tell me (slightly more politely than this, but not much) to get lost.

I think this situation happened because little children take their opinions and feelings and the things they know about the world so seriously. This is a good thing; they know what they know and won't be swayed. What they do not know is that people can disagree and still be friends. A parent pointing out that they disagree in a nonchalant way shows them that disagreement is not a disaster. They learn that their own ideas do not have to change because someone else thinks differently. They learn that other people have minds of their own and that others have the right to their own ideas and opinions. Sometimes it is hard for me not to just tell them what I think, but the fact is, they didn't ask, and if they care what I think, they'll let me know. My goal is not to teach them the truth about ponytails or whatever other thing they are arguing about. My goal is to teach them to discuss things with each other civilly and to be first-handed in their acquisition of knowledge.

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