Today I am grateful for something important that I have learned: I will not use certain language around my children.
I will not say “You’re making me crazy”, because it is an accusation that is not literally true. I will say “what you’re doing is making me very frustrated right now.”
I will not casually accept it when my children use Very Strong Language that can be taken the wrong way by someone who does not know them.
I will ask “Are you ready to live as though what you just said is true?”
I wish that I could go back in time and explain this to me-as-a-child.
I wish that I could go back in time and explain to me-as-a-child that it actually feels better and more accurate to word my frustrations accurately.
No I’m not angry enough to “want to punch you in the face”. I’m frustrated because I feel that you’re not listening to me. No I’m not “going crazy”, I’m dealing with a lot of stresses in my life that I’m trying to balance and I’m frustrated sometimes because even though I CAN balance them it’s hard. No I don’t “want to leave”. I want to feel as though I’m being listened to. No “FML or F-My Life” for me, I like my life- it’s my frustrations that annoy me but I don’t have to write off my life to say that.
I don’t need to use words that are bigger than the situation that I am in, because the words that describe the situation accurately are the words that describe the size of it and the frustration of it.
When you describe those things accurately there are solutions to be found, and no one can ever take your frustrations out of context to claim that that is who you are.
I have seen people talk “jokingly” about wanting to hurt their kids.
I have seen people vent or claim that they wanted to hurt themselves because they were stressed out in a relationship.
I have seen people “want to kill their husband” because their husband forgot to put the toilet seat down again.
There are problems with this language.
I used to use strong words to “jokingly” express frustration.
I’ve increasingly become aware that this is a habit I don’t want my kids to adopt. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that it’s okay to to proclaim that they are “insane” when what they really mean is that they might possibly be wrong about a particular idea that they have. I don’t want them to think it’s okay to say that they want to punch someone in the nose when they really mean that they’re really annoyed by something. I don’t want my kids to think that it’s okay to “jokingly” say that they want to commit suicide, because everyone who jokes about suicide makes it more likely that someone who is NOT joking will not get the help that they need.
When my two year old says “I want to hit you”, I understand that and there are limitations to his self control and to what he can understand when I explain things to him.
With my six year old, though, I ask him what would happen if he did that. I ask him if he really wants to hit me or if he just feels very very angry or very very frustrated. I tell him that if he really feels like he wants to hit me, that we have to find a better way to deal with that, and we try to figure something out together.
I want him to grow up knowing that there are solutions, and to seek out solutions proactively rather than just venting.
I never want my children to vent through saying “I WANT TO HURT YOU!” rather than working on solutions.
I never want my children to vent through saying “I WANT TO HURT MYSELF!” when they really mean that they are so frustrated that they need help in finding context for their hurts or their frustrations.
I never want my children to say “I HATE MY LIFE!” when they could look for the things that they don’t like about their life and work on making their life better.
I never want my children to say “I WANT A DIVORCE!” when they don’t get their way in a future relationship. I want them to work on problems, not threaten their partner.
I never want my child to think that if they said something misguided that they need to say “I’M PROBABLY JUST NUTS!”. I want them to be able to say “I might be wrong. I should read more about that.” Because I never want them to question their sanity instead of their research.
I never want my kids to say “I’M LOSING MY MIND!” when what they really mean is that they’re having a hard time figuring out how to balance things in their life. Because saying “I’M LOSING MY MIND!” is not as productive as saying “Okay, this really isn’t working and there has to be a better way of doing this. I need to figure out what is important and I need to prioritize.”
And because of these things I focus today on the language that I use, and on my reactions when my kids use certain strong angry words or strong hopeless words to try to make me understand exactly how deeply they feel something.
I understand that as a child right now they feel certain things SO VERY DEEPLY that they want to throw up their hands and declare that this is the WORST DAY OF THEIR LIVES and they ARE LOSING THEIR MINDS and they WANT TO HURT SOMEONE.
But someday they’ll be adults like I am now, and I want them to understand that they are strong enough to handle the things life throws at them. I want them to recognize when they are NOT strong enough, and to understand how to seek any help that they need.
So today when I speak, I ask myself “Are you ready to live as though that’s true?” And I will ask my children that exact same thing.