We want our children to grow up to be decision makers. We also want them to make good decisions. How can we get them to do the right thing and treat them as if they know what they are doing at the same time? How can we treat them as if they know what they are doing, when we half know that they don’t?
As I was saying goodbye to early childhood teacher Gretchen Ott on my last day at Children’s Day School, she reminded me of a very important technique. She said: “A long time ago I learned the trick of not saying anything. If a student did something I knew he knew was wrong, I would just give him a look. I’m still perfecting my look, and I wish I did it more.”
I laughed, “Yup. Me, too.”
We know how often we still waste our breath. Do we really need to say: “You made a bad choice” as often as we do? Isn’t there a look that would be even more eloquent than words because it triggers words in the child’s head?
Over the summer I saw parents practicing just-say-nothing, even my own children with their children. I saw a look that said: “I can’t believe I saw what I think I saw! I bet you can fix that on your own without me having to tell you what you know I am about to tell you.”
Then there’s the: “Would you like to show me that you know better than that? I would rather not embarrass you by correcting you in front of Susan?” and the: “I can’t believe you thought you could get away with that.”
I keep forgetting to use the look that says: “How often have I told you to say, ‘please?’”
If our communication is more subtle, the children can still act as if they still in charge of themselves. Too much direction on the parent’s part can undermine a child’s sense of their own authority. What techniques have you discovered for handling the dilemma of needing to be an authority and at the same time needing to raise your child to be an authority?