Mamas on Bedrest: How will you “Mama” your Children?

October 26th, 2011

“Because I’m your mother and I said so, that’s why!”

The first time that I heard a variation of those words come out of my mouth I cringed in utter disbelief. Even the thought of them now makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up on end. How many times had my mother said those words to my sisters and I when we deigned to question a command? How many times did we chide behind her back, “No good reason, eh?” Yet there they were, a variation of those most annoying and seemingly lame words rolling right out of my mouth.

I have made a conscious choice not to use the phrase “Because I said so” with my children. Even if I want them to simply do what I say and not question my instruction, I try to give reasons for my directives. Children are not stupid and often when they are asking the reason for doing something, they aren’t even being confrontational. As I have found with my own children, sometimes they just want to know why it’s important that they do something that they’d really rather not do.

What has become an interesting problem is dealing with my mother as I mother my own children. Being that she is in her 70’s and reared us with the “Do as I say” mentality, she gets a bit put out with me when I dialogue with my children about things. We spent the better part of the summer with her and more than once she jumped in when I had instructed on of my children to do something with,

“Because your mother said so!”

At one point I had to remind her, “Ma, these are MY kids and I’ll speak to them as I choose.” Although I am nearly 46 years old, she wasn’t happy that I had “back talked” her.

For my mom and many of her generation, the belief is that children should respect their elders and often should be “seen and not heard”. While I agree with that on a few levels, I wholeheartedly disagree on most other levels and have some caveats. Children should be kind and speak respectfully to everyone and that is something on which I work very diligently with my children whether they are speaking to their teacher, other older adults or to a friend on the playground. As much as possible, they should use kind words.

However, I do not ascribe to the notion that children should respect any and all adults simply because they are adults.  While I don’t advise my children to “talk back” if an adult is rude to them, I do tell them to tell me or their father so that we can address them-adult to adult and not put my children in a potentially disadvantageous (harmful) situation.

I am a firm believer that respect must be earned. There have been many adults and authority figures in my life that while I spoke courteously with them, I in no way respected them. These people were often rude, brash, condescending and quite often wrong in their ideals or opinions yet doggedly argumentative that their position was the right position. We all have and are entitled to our beliefs. At the same time, that does not give any of us the right to be rude or to speak in a manner so as to belittle another person. I believe that this is true whether we are speaking with another adult or with a child. If you are not kind, why should you expect others to be kind to you, much less respect you?

So my children ask lots of question, sometimes at inopportune moments when I would rather they just take my directions and run with them. But at the same time, I have learned from my children and in one case, my daughter presented such a well thought out counter argument to my directive that I apologized to her and we carried out the situation as she suggested.

Children learn what they live. I want both of my children to grow up to be confident, well spoken people who can intelligently discuss a topic, even differ in their opinions from their companion, yet be respectful and be respected at the same time. When we shut them down with “Because I said so”, I believe that we teach them not to critically think, not to have original thoughts nor to be able to formulate an opinion. I believe we teach them to become “followers in the herd” because they don’t develop the confidence to identify what they want or need, to openly state when something is wrong or doesn’t resonate with them and to subsequently voice those opinions. The “herd mentality” teaches our children that it is more important to be “in the crowd” than to be an individual. I fear that it is this thinking and this “fear of being different” that leads many of our children to try drugs, alcohol or other risky behaviors-because everyone else is doing it.

We adults are not always right. While many of us easily admit that, many others won’t admit that sometimes a child-in particular their own child-may have a different, valid and perhaps more right opinion.

So Mamas on Bedrest, how will you mama your children? Will you allow them to learn and grow according to their own inner trajectory with gentle guidance and correction or are you more inclined to impose your preferences upon them, to be right and demanding rather than commanding their respect? Share your parenting opinions below, on our Facebook page or on Twitter, @mamasonbedrest.

2 responses to “Mamas on Bedrest: How will you “Mama” your Children?”

  1. Thembi says:

    Great post cuz! I’ve thought about this as well and hated when people would say respect your elders when they didn’t deserve respect. I like to think I’ll fully communicate with my children when the time comes. Obviously without having any, I can’t say for certain but I’ll try and keep practicing until it becomes a habit.

  2. Darline says:

    Good for you for at least giving thought to what you want to teach your children. Too often we have children and then try to “figure it all out”. While you can’t plan everything ahead, you can certainly give some thought to some of your core values and what you want to impart to your children. Thanks for reading, cuz!!!

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