Changing how we speak to children
Written By Brittany Taylor
This is a frequent ending to sentences I’ve been contemplating for some time. And like the majority of the topics I ponder recently, it is linked to parenthood and how I can be a “better person,” i.e. a more aligned version of my true self, so that I feel good and impact the world positively. Nothing quite jolts me awake to realize the importance of making positive change NOW like being Ilya’s mama.
Ok, so back to this example of a common phrase we put at the end of sentences in the English language: “…for me.”
Often to a child who we are trying to help get dressed: “Can you please put this on for me?”
Or trying to brush their teeth: “Can you open your mouth for me?”
Hm. That feels kinda funny. I don’t really want to suggest that another being does something for me. What truly resonates with me is that all beings do what resonates for them.
Being a caregiver to Ilya has offered me the gift of being more aware of how I show up and in particular, the language I use.
The words we choose are so powerful. Our words are spells. Simply put: language matters. A lot. The words that come out of our mouths matter. A lot.
What if we simply removed the ending “…for me”?
I don’t want Ilya or anyone else to do something because I want them to. I want them to connect with their natural desire to do something. I may also have needs/desires I want to meet. And I find I can express that in a non-confrontational way, where there is space for both of us to “be right” and be heard.
Another way I could express how I’m feeling is really just a more accurate way of sharing what is alive for me:
“Can you please put this on? It’s cold outside and I would love for you to feel warm and comfortable while we play.”
“Can you open your mouth so I can brush your teeth? I love taking care of your body and being consistent with brushing so your teeth stay clean and feeling good for you.”
For you. My desire is to enhance YOUR life experience, which inherently enhances mine. It brings me great joy to nourish you. It feels essential to stay connected to that truth because if my desire its to nourish Ilya, asking them to do something for me does not feel consistent with my desire to nourish.
I also notice that our desire to say “for me” often comes after asking once or twice before. With Ilya, the programming inside of me doesn’t think of that phrasing until I start to feel a little panicked. Wow. Imagine this. I am not having the outcome I envisioned, and what I learned is to try and persuade someone to do what I want by sort of asking them to do it for me, to abandon their own instincts and please me.
It’s so common it can feel benign or like not a big deal. But these small ways we phrase things in our language have the potential to create big ripples, especially when used regularly over time, or used unconsciously.
I’ve been choosing to omit the words “for me” for some time and I love how it helps me stay connected with the other person I’m interacting with and myself. It requires me to reconnect with my intention if I am not getting “my way” and choose another path, one where we can both be heard, understood, and have our needs met.
For me, it’s not about doing it “right;” this whole exploration is about becoming more aware and in touch with my intention. If I say “for me,” it’s all good! I sometimes do and then say the sentence again. I like maintaining the attitude that it’s fun to be a student of life and I’m always growing and learning, without judgment as much as possible.
When connecting with Ilya’s desires, I have found that Ilya’s instincts are always right on and they have good reason for expressing what they are feeling. When they don’t want to get dressed, for example, is usually because one of the following reasons:
-They are having fun playing inside and don’t want to go out yet
-They feel comfortable with the current temperature and don’t feel connected with the cold outside and what their body may need yet
-They need to poop and want to do that before getting dressed
-They are feeling tired or sensitive or inward and want to stay home
Because I haven’t forced or coerced Ilya into getting dressed and have rather created a space for dialogue when something like this is coming up, Ilya now expresses to me why they don’t want to do something, either on their own accord or when I ask. They seem to feel safe in doing so and confident that their feelings and needs will be heard and that together we will find a way to meet their needs and mine.
Parenting this way takes time. Especially investment time up front to have these conversations when your needs and theirs present as different. And I am finding it to be the best investment. Not only does it pay off in time down the road in the form of nourishing conversation where we feel connected, it also pays off for both of us in intimacy, in co-creation, in intuition and autonomy, in self responsibility, compassion, and honestly a much more fun and dynamic relationship.
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