Before I became a parent, I would listen to other parents talk about and discuss their children with others. I would listen to them with trepidation and what eventually become anger and sadness at the way these parents would talk about their children to other people, sometimes relatives, sometimes colleagues, sometimes strangers. They would all try to top the other parent’s story about how bad their children were, about the bad habits of their children. To me, it sounded exaggerated, unnecessary and incredibly, spiteful.
It sounded a lot like backbiting.
Fast-forward a few years and I now have children of my own, and without even noticing, I have begun to speak about my own children in this manner as well. Often when people ask me about how my kids are, I find that I roll my eyes and sigh and launch into the latest thing that they did to frustrate me. Like in my last post here.
I think what is really important to recognise is that parenting is not a competition of who is having the worst time of it, and who can tell the most horrible story about their children at Mother’s Group, or at the next dinner with fellow mum friends. You know, the kind of talk where mum after mum tries to oust the previous mother with a horror story about their child’s epic half an hour tantrum at Coles, because “NOBODY’S KID IS AS BAD AS MINE.”
Is this what we’ve come to? Whinging and complaining about our kids to gain the most sympathy?
There is a BIG difference between simply complaining and essentially backbiting the worst of our children, and discussing a bad habit that our child has with the sincere intention to seek help and advice, or to simply off load to a fellow trusted friend in a concerned manner about the difficulties in raising children.
I think we need to ask ourselves how we would feel if our children, when they grew up, went around complaining and whinging to their friends about OUR bad habits, which let’s face it, they DO SEE.
The reality is that our children do have their own dignity, and that they have as much right as we do for that dignity to be upheld. They have the right to trust their parents to protect them and their self-worth, and not lay out their difficult traits in a degrading manner to anyone outside (or even inside) the family.
Before we open our mouths to discuss our children with others, let’s take a minute to think about what our intentions are, and in whether what we are about to say is a hurtful thing to say about our children. And most importantly, let’s not only take the time to remember all our children’s beautiful positive traits, but to acknowledge that our children will not be perfect, that they are essentially CHILDREN who are learning and growing, and in this process, they will make mistakes.
And that’s ok, because let’s face it, we are supposed to be the ‘adults’ and we make mistakes too.
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