Some advice or ideas about parenting are overly complicated, or sound great in theory but we can’t figure out how to transform the words that inspire us into our daily interactions with our child.
There is so much out there to wade through, and so a simple idea that makes complete sense and leads to tangible actions is a bit like striking gold. That’s how we see John Holt’s wise words,
“If I had to make a general rule for living and working with children, it might be this: be wary of saying or doing anything to a child that you would not do to another adult...”.
How perfect is that? It simultaneously reminds us that our children are as human as we are, and should be treated as such; and tells us how we can evaluate our way of responding to our child, and make changes if necessary.
Reach over and wipe an adult’s nose without any warning? No, we know we need consent to touch another adult, so let’s give our children the same respect - “your nose is runny, may I wipe it”?
‘Manhandle’ an adult into the position you want them in, pulling their arm, dragging them by the legs, or pulling them under the arms from behind”? No, you wouldn’t even dream of it. You’d point out where they need to be and allow them to move themselves. We can do the same with our child, or if they are going to need help, do it gently with words that precede any ‘handling’.
Send an upset adult away to compose themselves before you’d engage with them, or ignore any of their outpourings of big emotions? Unlikely. We imagine you’d stay nearby, offer a gentle presence, read their cues as to what they needed. Let’s do the same with our children’s sadness and tantrums. Respond as we would an adult, person to person, not ignore them or banish them to ‘time out’.
Take something out of another adult’s hand because someone else was looking at it and you felt they needed to ‘share’? We’re yet to observe this amongst adults at a playgroup but absolutely see it happen to young children. Why? Why can’t we allow them to enjoy what they have, explore their own concepts of ownership and just not be a casualty of the ‘adult swoop in’?
We could go on and on with the ways children are treated that would not happen to adults. But it’s not more examples we need, it’s just to turn up our own awareness and keep John Holt’s advice in the front of our mind.
We can ask ourselves, “is this how I’d treat an adult”, when we are mid interaction and feel we’ve maybe gone astray. We can pause before responding and think about how would we be and what we’d say or do if this was another adult in front of us. We’ll become more fluent at it with practice and responding to our child as a full person, rather than ‘just a child’ will become our go-to approach.