I was brushing the Princess’s hair this evening and talking with her about her upcoming attendance at Preschool;
“Why do we have to listen to the teacher, Mama?”
“Because the teacher is in charge. The teacher is the team leader so it’s important to cooperate with her.” I explained.
“Well I’m in charge of things too, Mama. I’m in charge of the Scaries.” She refers to what she has affectionately named anything that lurks in her imagination once the sun has set.
“Yes! Yes, you are in charge of the Scaries. What else are you in charge of?…. You’re in charge of your attitude, right? You decide if you want to use your words instead of throwing a fit, and you decide when you will have a good attitude.” I love opportunities to talk to her at a deeper level.
“And I’m in charge of my body too!” Her tone and her body language exuded confidence.
“YES! Yes, yes- you are in charge of your body. It’s yours, no one else’s. That’s right…..” And the conversation delves back into the subject of protecting privacy and always knowing she’s safe talking to her Mama and Daddy. This is almost scripted after several years of reminding her that no one is allowed to touch your body unless you allow them.
Subjects like these are touchy, but I’m learning that its more uncomfortable for the grown up’s than for the children. Discussions of sex and private parts seem to make parents squirm- I know it made my mother uncomfortable. She avoided it at all costs and I wish she hadn’t.
The SO and I have decided to handle this taboo subject the exact opposite of how we recall it in our childhoods. This starts at a young age where the foundation is laid. We never want to instill shame but rather confidence. We want our children to have confidence that they can approach us about anything . We want our children to be very sure of themselves and to know the limits, to know what is appropriate and what is not. We want our kids to know that they are aloud to tell someone else no. In short, we want to protect our kids by exposing them to conversations that some folks might find awkward or inappropriate. We talk about it. Whatever it is- we talk about it. We instill confidence one conversation at a time.
I learned from Systematic Training for Effective Parenting that giving your child a sense of control is important. Allowing your child to keep their identity and their sense of autonomy is key. In my adult life I’ve struggled with self-confidence. I was conditioned to seek approval & reassurance. I’m striving to change this in my children. Instead of lavishing them with praise about how proud I am of them, I ask them if they are proud of themselves. Instead of yanking them from one activity to the next I give them a few moments warning to prepare to change gears- respecting the person they embody. At every opportunity I remind them that they have control, even if only a tiny bit in contrast to the control that adults have over their lives. I’ve written before that when becoming a parent I had an idea of what I wanted to become, but I had little direction on how to get there. We have many, many years ahead of us in this game of parenting- but I feel we are off to a strong start.
So even at the age of two- in spite of all of the rules that govern her life- my little girl knows that in some sense she is the one in charge.