Recently I wrote an article for a famous Bulgarian website, Edna.bg. I share my view of children education and some threadbare phrases used in my native country. Here I offer you the translated version, but I must underline that these expressions are very likely to be heard in my country and might sound weird to other nations. Still, I hope you would find it interesting to read how it was and, I am afraid, still is in Bulgaria.
For any Bulgarian speakers who happen to read my blog, the original article was published here . 🙂
A mother of a 3-year-old boy, which means a mother with a very short experience as a parent. But one who cares little about the commonly held, the out-of-date. It is exactly what I am about to talk now.
I don’t like them, I don’t want to use them and this is it – those expressions and methods used by generations. Old-fashioned, wrong, ineffective? There are messages we convey to our children every day without even asking ourselves what is hidden behind these clichés. Do we need to follow the educational approaches from the past, or we could think of all the feelings they cause to the little creature before us?
Here they are, the expressions I would NOT say to my son or the things I would NOT do. Because they are confusing, because they could hurt or offend, because they do not solve anything or simply because they are worn out:
- ‘If you don’t do this or that, I won’t love you.’ Why is a child supposed to deserve our love through their behavior? Don’t we love them always and under any circumstances? I ask myself how deeply I would sadden my child if I doubt my affection for him saying such words. I will love you no matter what, my little precious, but now I am just a little bit angry with you because you haven’t stayed peacefully by your mummy’s side and have tried to pull down a few bottles of perfume in the store. 🙂
I have found out that kids actually understand quite well when they have gone too far and they are ready to apologise if mummy is upset. So in this case, I would say ‘I don’t want to talk to you!’ rather than ‘I won’t love you anymore.’
- ‘A spoonful for mummy, a spoonful for daddy…’ Until we list nearly the whole family. Turning the spoon into a plane, helicopter or another attractive object does not look any better. Food should be necessity and pleasure, not a repulsive obligation. If my child does not like the grated apple I am trying so hard to put into his mouth , then he is not eating it and I’d better yield. Sometime later maybe he would like apples, say cut into cubes, but not now. Now I will give him what he likes eating without persuading him that he is doing it for mummy, daddy or the rest of the family.
- ‘Kids will laugh at you!’ What does this popular sentence teach to? First, one should always be mindful of what they are doing because the most important thing is others’ opinion. Second, laugh at a child every time you hear someone saying to them the above expression. This is terrible! Being a mother, I don’t want my child to see himself as a potential object of ridicule, even because of some bad demeanor. Moreover, the last thing I would teach him is to make fun of another person. It would be so much the better if we try to bring up children who are self-esteemed and at the same time respect other people’s feelings. ‘Kids will laugh at you!’ is definitely not a step in this direction.
- ‘Coward!’ and any other definition regarding a child’s fears. Once again it is all about ridiculing. There is nothing crueler, nothing to wound more an infant’s soul than the offences of their own parents. If my child is afraid of anything, I would explain to him that there is nothing to fear of. I will take him by the hand and we will go in the dark together; I will help him to overcome his fear of falling from a high slide; I will show him that beetles just buzz and cannot hurt him. And I will NEVER call him a ‘coward’!
- ‘Let’s beat it! Bang-bang!’ My child has hit himself against the table and starts crying, and I on my part start beating ‘the naughty table’ because it has hurt him. So what? Not only is my rational conduct being questioned (well, not that it is so bad to look stupid at times), but I am also asking myself how the child is interpreting the whole scene. Doesn’t he think (perhaps quite properly) that he is supposed to beat a friend if they have hit him either consciously or not? And why in case of an accident should there be anyone to blame at all? I think it is easier and more natural just to hug and soothe our child (surely, no unnecessary doses of compassion and drama to sadden children even more) and make them believe everything will soon let go. Needless to say that words such as ‘beat’, ‘hit’ or any other that suggests violence, or the violence itself, must be a taboo for parents!
- ‘Keep away from this (homeless) dog, it will bite you!’ I have seen children, close to real hysteria when they come across a dog in the street. And others, who throw rocks or other objects at hand over homeless animals. Why?! Why do we teach our children to be afraid of animals? Why do we thrust upon them the deep conviction that homeless dogs and cats are dirty, evil and dangerous, and it’s not a big deal if we hurt them? Why if a mother is afraid of big dog breeds, for example, her child should be afraid too? If I have fears, they belong to me and not to my child.
My son loves animals, and not long ago he used to rush towards any homeless dog he could see outside. Once he was even given a nip by a domestic dog. However, I didn’t forbid him to approach dogs. I explained to him that some of them could bite because they were afraid of us or just because they didn’t want us to stroke them, and not because they were bad. I also explained that he shouldn’t try to touch a dog he didn’t know, especially when unattended. He doesn’t do it anymore, but he still likes caressing animals, and he still doesn’t fear. This is my way to protect him, but also to give him some valuable advice – love animals so that you could love people.
- ‘If you don’t obey, I’ll give you to that bad dog/bear!’ or it could get even worse with the severe threats of a police officer, nursery nurse, doctor or other personages who kids believe to be the ultimate evil. I agree that sometimes parents are out of patience and attempts to comfort their children, but I wonder if it’s a good idea to show our parental helplessness saying such nonsense. Our inability to cope with a situation that is about to become a hysterical outburst or fierce crying forces us to use the demonised portraits of people and animals. And then? Then we are surprised to discover that our children hate going to the doctor, who is actually a really nice guy, and it’s quite the same with going to the nursery.
What if we choose another approach; no threatening, no fears? I explain to my son why I think his behavior to be inappropriate, repeat thousand times what is right or wrong, say clearly if I am angry with him, make him apologise, or with other words, talk to him. This way animals remain good, and the above professions are rescued from being stigmatised. And I am raising my child hoping that I have not taught him to hate or fear the world.
Still, I realize perfectly well that it is too early to make conclusions whether his father and I are doing decently as parents and that most probably our methods, too, are not good enough. Because in some occasions the only thing we need is a great deal of patience; and also to remind ourselves that we’d better follow the signals our children give, not the stereotypes.
For more beautiful works of art by Afsaneh Tajvidi, please visit Etsy.com.