Opinions. We all have them. And most of us will voice ours without provocation or invitation. Moreover, we teach our children, almost from birth, to use their voice, through crying, to ensure that their needs met. Then, as early toddlers, we prompt and encourage them to “use their words” at all times. So, why is it that once our children are fully capable of verbal communication, we desire to stifle their use of the English language to vocalize their own viewpoints and to push their own agenda?
My kids have so many opinions and they have them all the time. Sometimes they have a certain point of view on important things, but the majority of the time, they have passionate notions about what I consider to be the smallest and silliest of things.
At present, I struggle to always listen to my almost six-year-old’s opinions on the clothes she wears. Everything I buy for her–well, it doesn’t fit how she would like it to. The undies are too small, the shorts are too big, the shirt is hurting her in the arms. It makes me want to scream when I am trying to get three children and myself ready and out the door by 7:30am. When we are running behind because the panties that are clearly too big for her feel “too tight”, I almost lose my sh**.
I also am challenged by my three-year old whose opinion on clothes is that he only wears them if they are “comfy”; this means no collard shirts, no shorts that are not cotton, etc. Both of the kiddos have strong negative reactions to brushing their teeth because “they don’t like it” and toothpaste “tastes gross”. They always have judgments on the food served at each meal and strong preferences on how we spend any downtime. Even my fourteen month old has been giving me attitude lately. If I do not give in to her desire to play in the fridge, with the bathroom trashcan or with the television remote, she will fail her arms, fall to the floor and throw a complete hissyfit.
I get so incredibly frustrated when my children don’t listen to me. But, why? Why does that drive me so crazy? My children are only doing what I have taught them to do. My children are exerting their independence and flaunting their personality, just as I have encouraged them to do since they were babies. It is unfair of me to now tell them to “can it” because their opinion and judgment does not align with mine.
We have to think: What if someone in a position of authority told us that we had to wear clothes that made us uncomfortable? What if we had to eat food that we did not like? What if we were told that we have to listen, do what we are told and like it? Hell no! None of us would put up with that and that is why our children are not either.
I, of course, am attempting to raise extremely respectful children; however, respect does not mean that you child always has to comply with what is being asked. Maybe your child will comply with the request, but they should, at a minimum, be allowed to vocalize why they do not want to and how “it” makes them feel.
In a world that is so focused on everything being politically correct and neutral, it is okay to teach your child how to respectfully disagree with something, without being offensive or disadvantageous to anybody or anything. It is also okay to teach them that not everything requires a voiced opinion–there are occasions that do and ones that don’t. We need to educate them on the difference.
Children need to understand that there is a difference between sharing your opinion and being rude. We need to let our children know that we do not expect them to agree with everything that we say, but that we do expect them to respect that we have a view. Our children need to be taught that they need to be understanding of our opinions, just as much as we need to be understanding of theirs. You can entertain a thought of another without accepting it. As parents, we need to model this.
So–my goal is that tomorrow morning, in the rush of the “get to school” fury, I will remember that opinions are good. My children having opinions is a proud momma moment. My children having opinions means that my husband and I are raising strong-willed, independent-thinkers. What I need to focus on now is ensuring that along with their viewpoint, they are also having empathy and respect for the point of view of others. If I can model this and they do the same, then I will have taught them not only about self-understanding, but of how to understand others.