“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
If your child has spent more than a few hours in daycare or preschool, then this is undoubtedly a refrain you know well. And truth is, it works well too, inciting littl’uns to curb their innate urge to whine and complain if they don’t get the pink one, one with not enough frosting or, the one little Jimmy has. As a parenting tool, it’s extremely handy and I am not afraid to admit that I am quick to use it.
But it occurred to me the other day that this phrase has a darker side. By using it, we are actually telling our kids “this is the way it is, you have no choice in the matter and no means of recourse.”
I don’t know about you but I don’t want my kids to accept what is given them as a fait accompli, a done deal, like it or lump it.
I firmly believe that each of us is in charge of shaping our own destiny. If you sit on your butt and don’t speak up, then guess what? Nothing happens and you have no one to blame but yourself.
Rather than teaching our kids to settle, let’s teach them to form cogent arguments. I’m not saying every four-year old should be able to construct a formal appeal but I’m willing to listen to a decent case (as long as there’s no whine.)
If we equip our kids from a tender age with the ability to stand up for themselves, articulate their thoughts and negotiate with purpose, then we are letting them know that their opinions matter, that they have a voice and they can affect change.
The pragmatist in me, the working mom just trying to get through kids’ dinner time without incident so that their bedtime is smooth (and soon) knows that I’m not always ready to hear the come-backs. I’m quick to put up my hand to my son and say “no negotiating.” But when I then hear my daughter say to her brother in a rote fashion “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” I am reminded that I should hear them out. It’s true that my answer may not change but at least they will know that their voice has been heard.
This mother does not want her kids to settle. I hope I can teach them to be articulate advocates.