Understanding

So tonight on the way home from my parents house for dinner I had an interesting conversation with B, my oldest. She had brought her stuffed monkey, Elizabeth, whom she made at Build-a-Bear, with her all dress up and in her “summer clothes”. During our stay Elizabeth ended up on the couch where S found her sitting. S cannot leave anything with clothes on alone. She must feel something is wrong with dolls and stuffed animals that have clothes on, because those clothes, well they are a problem. I think it is just practice for disrobing herself, which she does quite nicely in order to change into the 5th outfit for the day. (How I ended up with these girlie girls, I don’t know!) Anyway S disrobed the Elizabeth the monkey. Just as she was finishing B noticed, got mad, walked over, and took Elizabeth and all her paraphernalia away from S. This was a good thing because who knows where all those little pieces of clothing might have ended up in the hands of a 2 year old. So fast forward to us trying to leave to come home. Everyone is tired, it will be past bedtime by the time we get home. I remind both M and B to get their toys so we can leave. B can’t find Elizabeth’s clothes. For some reason that only a 7 year old can understand, she took her stuff from her littlest sister because she didn’t want Elizabeth “naked” but she didn’t immediately put the clothes back on. Tears ensued. Sighing ensued from yours truly. I walked around the house looking for said clothes, and I didn’t see them anywhere; although, they are there somewhere. I said that Gramma would keep an eye out for them and would return them as soon as they turned up. More tears.

So, the conversation on the way home:
B: Why can’t S just not touch things that she KNOWS don’t belong to her. She should know better?
Me: Well, it’s something called impulse control and most 2 year olds don’t have it. Let me ask you why, when you know better, do you go into my bathroom and put on my lipstick and take things out of my closet?
B: Well, but she should know better.
Me: Yes, but you didn’t answer my question.
B: Because I want to!
Me: But you know it’s not right because I have asked you not to do those things and yet you still do.
B: Moooommmm! (followed by a silence of understanding and a sigh of acceptance).

So, I went on to tell her that sometimes it’s hard to not do something even though you know it’s not the best decision, but that there are consequences to that action. I reminded her that there are a lot of adults who have difficulty with impulse control and so it was unreasonable to expect more control out of her youngest sister than she herself was able to have.

I don’t remember who, but someone once told me that I expect my kids to understand and comprehend things that are beyond them; that I’m explaining concepts that are too difficult for them to grasp. But my feeling is that if you don’t talk things out and help kids to understand these concepts, then you are doing them a disservice. Why others make the decisions they make and how that affects the individual and those around them is an important concept. There are so many people in this world that do things and don’t think about why they are making a choice or what impact it has and then become upset that their choice led them down a path they didn’t want to take. Empathy is so important to learn. You have to draw this out and teach it. I see so much self-centered people in this world. It’s all about them. I see this in B sometimes, and it scares me. So I explain a lot and try to put it in terms that she can understand. I want her (and all my girls) to be good people, and I do the best I know how to.

B actually seemed to understand what I was saying by the time we got home. If she didn’t full understand it, then at least I gave her something to think about. She is the most receptive kid. She hears everything and being a kid her mind sometimes puts a twist on what was really said, so we talk. I love this about our relationship. We have these talks and about a month later, she will out of the blue say something that emphasizes the fact she understood what we had talked about.

These kids – they are amazing.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Minivan Mom on July 24, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I talk about “big” concepts a LOT also. It wasn’t so much a conscious effort as that my oldest has always been precocious, asking theoretical questions at a young age. He’s still, constantly, asking the tough questions (death, God, sex, love, meaning of life…I think he’s a reincarnation of Sartre) and I think the other 2 get a lot by osmosis, since it’s often in the car, and they sit there listening. I’m not sure how much sinks in, but they’re definitely being exposed to a lot!

  2. Posted by Jill B. on July 24, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I agree with you…don’t dumb down your conversations with your kids. I have tried to answer the children in the most honest way I can. I call private parts by their correct anatomical name, for instance. For me honesty is always the best policy.

  3. Posted by Living In a Girl's World on July 25, 2008 at 4:03 am

    Well I’m glad I’m not the only one. We had another discussion on the way to the lake this morning about people who litter and why they do it and how it impacts our environment. This question came from my 5yo.

  4. Posted by anniemcq on July 30, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Yes. Yes they are. Sounds like their mom is pretty amazing, too.

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