Before I begin, I’m not talking about swearing here – I don’t swear in front of Toby and I would absolutely never swear at him – I’m talking about the psycho babble (in my humble opinion) whereby parents aren’t using certain words or phrases to their children for fear of forever damaging them. I disagree, in case you couldn’t tell, so here’s why I’m not censoring my language for my kids.
In recent months I have read articles and blogs about why we shouldn’t use phrases such as “good boy” or “beautiful girl”, for a variety of reasons. Apparently, calling Toby a good boy when he does something good is detrimental because it invalidates any actions which aren’t praised with the term and by the act of omission, thus tells Toby that the rest of the time he must therefore be bad. Utter *censoring my language* rubbish.
Likewise, I’ve read how parents of girls aren’t calling their daughters ‘pretty’ because they don’t want to give them an identity based solely upon their looks. I completely agree that a girl shouldn’t think that her looks are her only strength in life but alongside telling Baby Girl that she’s pretty (which I don’t doubt that she will be!), I will also tell her that she is clever, that she is strong, that she is a good girl. I also tell Toby that he’s gorgeous and beautiful as well as being clever, strong and good.
Back to the ‘good’ topic.
When Toby does something right I tell him he’s a good boy. As the words leave my lips I can guarantee that Toby is not dissolving into a panicked frenzy about the fact that what I really mean is that in every other moment of his life he is bad. Because I don’t.
What I am reading more and more is that we basically have to walk on egg shells with our children for fear that we are going to forever damage their self image. I prefer to think that by telling Toby and soon his sister that they are all of the above things that they will believe me, they will know that they are loved and they will feel confident.
Likewise, when they display negative behaviours I will tell them so because they need to know where the boundaries lie. Toby has recently started pulling the cat’s tail and trying to switch the oven on, both of those delightful new endeavours could be dangerous for him and in the case of the tail, one bad pull could render our previously injured cat incontinent and we would have no choice but to put an otherwise healthy cat down. Are those actions and their consequences bad? Yes, so I tell him that they are. I don’t say “Toby, you are naughty. You are a bad child” I say “Toby, it is bad to pull the cat’s tail. Toby, don’t touch the oven, it’s hot”.
We are our children’s primary educators during their formative early years. Irrespective of what is on the TV or anywhere else in their lives it is us as their parents who are responsible for developing their sense of identity and self worth. I want my daughter to know that she is pretty because it matters. I want my son to know that he has done something good, because it matters.
I also want my daughter to know that she is clever, that she can achieve her goals, that she can go to ballet or football or both. Likewise for Toby, alongside the fact that he is gorgeous.
I don’t want my children to base their entire identities upon their looks but I also don’t want them to feel ugly because they’ve never been told otherwise. It’s about balanced language, I want them to feel strong, empowered, confident, to have high morals and ethics, to know that their mummy and daddy love them with every ounce of our being. That’s the important language. And not telling them to *ahem* ‘F’ off.