"Mom, I love you. I see that you are trying to help me out here, but take a look in the mirror. You do the same thing." -N, Age 9
So, I am faced with a choice. Get mad at her honesty, or admit that she's right. So, I take a deep breath, swallow my pride and my programming that's telling me how I should react and I say: "You're right! Why don't we work on that together. We can keep each other accountable and see if we can both break that habit."
Are your kids really being disrespectful, or just truthful and you don't want to hear it?
Before I correct my kids, I have to ask myself if what they said is only bothering me because it's the truth. A lot of times, I realize the only reason I want to correct them is because I don't think kids should correct adults, but that's the biggest crock of sh*t ever. It's a lie I was sold by society and from watching too many John Wayne movies as a kid. Ha!
Kids are honest and they see things more clearly than adults. We desperately need their input, their insight and their honesty. Giving the children a voice allows us a unique opportunity to see things that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Want to grow and become a better person? Then give the kids in your life freedom to say what they actually see. Give them a safe space to speak their truth, and you will discover a lot about yourself and the world you have created around you.
I will offer my kids correction and instruction when they are being disrespectful or are using their words to be hurtful or unkind; however, pure, independent, outspoken, honest sassiness is honored and respected in our home.
Giving the children in this home a voice allows me to see who they really are. It's a window to see what's really going on in that little heart of theirs. It helps me see the areas where we can improve, places where they need a little instruction or help, areas where their heart may have hardened towards a person or a situation and is in need of softening.
I see it all the time, kids who are respectful and sweet when there are adults present and then, as soon as they think no one is watching, they are making fun of the other kids, lying and doing spiteful things just for the sake of it. Why do you think that is? I think it's because at some point, they decided it wasn't safe to show adults who they really were. Does that mean they became a better person? No. It just means they learned how to only show the parts of themselves that they thought people wanted to see.
Have you ever seen an interview with a parent after their kid commits some kind of horrible crime? Not always, but usually the story goes something like this:
"I never saw that side of them. I didn't see this coming."
It makes me wonder what kind of communication was happening in that home.
Authentic communication is hard and it requires treating our children as equals. It requires allowing them to be different than us, to have different opinions and to say the things they are really thinking, even if we don't always agree. It requires allowing them to be who they really are without shaming them or judging who that person is.
I want to know who my kids really are. I want them to feel free to say whatever random and potentially inappropriate thing is on their mind. I want them to have a voice in this house, and I want to be brave enough to hear what that voice is saying.
Brooke Hampton is the author of Enchanted Cedar: The Journey Home and co-founder and owner of Enchanted Cedar, a local Chaga house and Bookstore in Lorena, Texas. She writes at barefootfive.com, where this post first appeared.