Friday, April 22, 2011

raising critical thinkers

"Mom - I don't think you're doing a very good job because you're not being very nice right now," Boy-o informs me, looking me dead in the eye, matter of fact.  My eyes are bulging out.  I can feel them. There's a vein throbbing in my head.  I probably look pretty freaking scary.  But he stares me down - undaunted by my freaky-mama-madness.  Little bugger.  It takes everything I have not to throttle him. 

I've been at him to do this, that and the other thing and he has pulled the magical four year old trick of super-selective-hearing.  TV, he hears just fine.  Me on the other hand, I sound like the Charlie Brown trombones, wah wah wah wah wah.  At any rate.  I hit the point of no patience.  I hit the point where cajoling gets ridiculous, where I have repeated the same request easily 10 times.  So I did the time-honoured yet not terribly useful thing.  I scream and yell.  I may have even stomped my feet.  I tell him I would cancel our family trip to Jasper because kids who ignore their parents perfectly normal requests shouldn't get treats like family trips to Jasper.  I say most of the ridiculous, ineffectual things that parents say when they get frustrated to the point of no return.  They are empty threats, kinda mean, and he knows it.  And he calls me on it.  And it's freaking  frustrating!

And you know what?  The kid was right.  I wasn't being very nice.  I also wasn't doing a terribly good job.  And he was responding exactly like I'm trying to raise him to respond.  This is the difficult (read: crap) side of trying to raise kids who think critically and are emotionally literate.  You want them to question authority.  You want them to think, and then respond thoughtfully about what feels right and wrong to them.  You want them to be able to question you, and tell you when you're doing a bleeping bad job.   Shit-bugger-damn. 

So I breathe.  And we do a "restart".  (This is a technique where we all pretend to go back to bed and start the day over.  From time to time, this works magic at our house).  And then I tell him I'm sorry for yelling and throwing a grown-up tantrum.  I also tell him how frustrating it is for me when he ignores me.  And he tells me he'll try to be a better listener.  And we continue packing up for our Jasper trip.

(I'm not holding my breathe on this one.  Kid listens exactly like a four year old should.)

Raising kids who are critical thinkers and emotionally literate is a delicate balancing act between being enough of an authority figure so that kids have parameters that make them feel safe and secure while also allowing your kids to question your judgement and actions when warranted.  I know that more often than not, I struggle mightily with striking said balance.  But I hope that in the long run, my attempts at struggling through this process will serve these kiddos well.


  1. Well said, mama T. There was no happier moment in my parenting life than when my eldest successfully argued with me. Yeah, sucks to be wrong but gives one great hope for the future. :)

  2. It is a conundrum! Teaching your child to think, question and then being upset when they do just that is a heart stopping moment! I was once sent to my room by my 5 and 7 year old children when I was upset. I grabbed my tea and spent half an hour in my room and felt so much better... and then we had a talk. Raising little lawyers who use the same techniques you have taught them will be of benefit in the future so forge on everyone! Phyllis

  3. And the next time you're struggling with doubt (don't try to bullshit me and tell me you won't, either...) re read this post.

    Because some days, you succeed magnificently.

  4. Ami - thanks :) Today Boy-o said "You are the best mama ever," and miraculously, my mother-in- law caught it on film. I'll be going back to that one, too!

  5. Awesome! To me, this is success.