No one likes to be seen as stupid
Listening to the opening remarks at an event, Julie found herself starting to feel a bit prickly. As the leaders laid out their expectations of the group, she nodded her head. As the instructions got more and more repetitive and, for want of a better word, preachy, she heard back-talk in her head. It had only taken 2 minutes for her attitude to go from excitement to defiance. No one likes to be seen as stupid.
The intention of the organizers was to clearly communicate their expectations and values. They did this. They were hoping to leave everyone in the group feeling welcomed and ready to start the event with a positive attitude…they were less successful in this regard. Why?
Because the group members didn’t feel that they were in control of the choices that were to be made…there were very few choices, and a large number of instructions.
Adults like to feel in control of our actions. We know that there have to be some rules, and we like to live our own values. We will typically choose to follow the rules in a way that honours our values. When all of the rules and values are demanded, we feel that we have very little choice or power in the situation… it feels like the rule-makers thought we were too stupid to make good choices.
What happens next?
We may not follow the rules? We want power and we’ll get it in a way that makes sense to us and our values. We may react, “If you think I’m that stupid…I’ll act like I am that stupid!”
Children respond in a pretty similar way. By preschool, they understand that there are rules. They understand that their family lives by certain values. If we want kids to be open to following the rules and the values, we need to allow them to feel some power or control. This is true for preschoolers to teens.
By a certain age, our kids “know” most of what they are supposed to be doing. They likely don’t do it all the time and we may be doing it for them. This is exactly the time when we need to be offering a means of control when we need to give an instruction. So how do we do that?
1. We can make a plan WITH our children when things don’t seem to be getting done.
Drawing their attention to the problem and then asking them to help with a solution and in clarifying the consequences allows them to feel some power in the situation.
2. We can shift our language. Instead of giving an order, we can ask a question.
When we tell our kids something that they already know, they think that we think that they are stupid. No one wants to be seen as stupid.
When we ask when something will be happening, we aren’t implying that our kids don’t know. We are clarifying what we don’t know.
“You need to be studying for that test!” becomes, “How have you laid out your study plans?”
“Eat your dinner!” becomes, “What are you going to eat first?”
When we nag our kids and tell them things that they already know, our actions are saying, “You aren’t capable…you need me to take responsibility for these events.”
Our kids are often okay with giving up responsibility. If they don’t need to clean their rooms, do their chores or feed themselves, they won’t.
If our parenting intention is all about teaching our kids that they are capable of taking responsibility, we need to be sure that we are acting that way as well. Back to school time can be full of orders and direction.
Be aware – is your language telling your children something they already know? If so, maybe it is time for a little shift. Kids are capable!
Summer deal of the week – Kids and Feelings
Ticked off, nervous or excited? Our kids may be feeling any and all of these things as they prepare to head back to school. When you have an exploding kid on your hands, it can be pretty hard to know what to do. We know… (that is – we know what it is like AND we know what to do.) It’s all here in our Kids and Feelings podcast.
It’s on sale August 20 – 22 for $5!
The rest of our downloadable podcasts are $10 each. You can find them here. Of course, if you are a member, you have access all of them on the member website. We’d love to hear which one is your favourite.