I’m a sort of obnoxious parent. For reasons that are right for my family and me, I rationalize and reason with Daughter so that she is sure to understand the consequences she receives for her actions almost all of the time. This goes for positive and negative consequences, and it works for us. Daughter is a very cerebral person, so this is a method that appeals to her and always has. I don’t mean she’s some sort of genius, mind you. What I’m saying is that she is the sort of person who really thinks things through after they happen. She processes both out loud and internally for a long time and likes to be able to see the cause and effect relationships to her actions.
For a very long time, I have thought that this was a great way to work with kids. More often than not in my classroom, a belligerent child was calmed by simply explaining why something was not allowed, for example. Kids are surprisingly rational beings, and I truly believe that adults forget that. So often all they want is to be spoken to as adults and when we do them that service they immediately behave better and more “grown up” when we expect them to.
Unfortunately there are not always reasons for things in life. Sometimes bad things just happen to us and we need to handle it without an explanation. I forget this a lot when dealing with Daughter in my endless efforts to try and rationalize everything with her. Life isn’t always a rational thing, it isn’t always a solid and clear cut cause-effect relationship. It would be unfair of me to never expose Daughter to these situations and only wait for them to show up for her in her life away from me.
Last night, I tried one out.
I don’t remember what exactly happened, but I needed to reprimand Daughter for something she did to Husband. She immediately announced, “That’s not fair!” My response was simple. I looked her in the eye and calms said, “No. It isn’t.” I held the eye contact while Daughter stared at me for what felt like forever. Her mouth was hanging open and her eyes were saucers. No sound emanated from her throat even though I could tell she was searching for the words she wanted to say. I wanted to be able to say something so desperately. I wanted to explain that adults are allowed to say certain things that kids are not yet allowed to say. It was more important right then for me to remain silent.
After a bit, Daughter regained her composure and simply moved on. I was proud of her because I knew that in that long moment she learned something important. She learned for the first of what will be many times that sometimes life is just unfair. There is not always going to be a reason provided. Sometimes you will not even be able to work one out in your mind. Really, it’s ok, as long as you know that eventually you’ll need to just move on.