We hear a lot about how progressive our society has gotten. Millennials taking over and changing the work force. The latest and greatest tech gadgets at everyone’s fingertips. Not to mention all of the social change that is happening. What about parenting styles? Has the way we raise our children changed along with the times? Or do you, like your parents before you (and your grandparents before them!!) still use those old school phrases?
Those phrases your Mom or your Dad said to you and you promised yourself up and down you would never, ever, ever repeat. Like, EVER. I know I did.
I’m of Haitian descent. Both my parents were born in Haiti, so I’m a first generation American to be exact. I like to say I’m Haitian by blood and American by location. And to anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting someone of Caribbean descent, you know that we are a vibrant, animated, strong, and stubborn people. I like to think that Caribbean people invented old school parenting. There’s no such thing as helicopter parenting to a Haitian–it’s just how parenting is done. So I’ve decided to give a few examples of how some classic, old school phrases were used in my home growing up, and give a new school spin on it. (Disclaimer: But please keep in mind, as new school as I may be, I reserve all right to go old school on my 2 little boys. So no calling me out if you happen to overhear me saying one of these old school phrases to my young sons…it’s the Haitian in me coming out.)
1. “Because I said so…”
My three siblings and I most often heard this when we asked to go hang out with friends. “May I go to the skate park with Debbie?” (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.) “No” would be the reply from one of our parents. They were equally old school so it really doesn’t matter which parent I name here and in the other examples. If I was feeling particularly lucky, I’d push and ask, “How come?” With a steely look which in and of itself indicated I should back down, my Mom or my Dad would slowly say, “Because I said so.” Nuff said. At that point I would just walk away and live to fight another day. The problem is this old school phrase misses out on a valuable teachable moment, instead relying on blind obedience. Sometimes kids assume their parents have no justifiable reason for saying “no” and therefore go ahead and do it anyway. Sometimes the rather naive child doesn’t realize the skate park is known to be a hot spot for illicit activity–something parents often do end up finding out. (Although I could never muster up enough gumption to do such a thing, I’ve had many a teenager tell me in session how he/she snuck out anyway. And a lot of the time the parents find out anyway.) New school response: “I trust you and Debbie to make the right decisions, but no you may not go to the skate park because there have been several incidents of the police showing up there because of what the kids were doing. It is not a place you should be hanging out.”
2. “Do as I say, not as I do.”
I have to admit this old school saying never really made sense to me growing up. Why parents would tell their children to ignore their own bad behavior and instead do what their parent is saying is beyond me. The phrase is a textbook example of the word hypocrisy. Taken from Merriam-Webster’s website, hypocrisy is defined as “the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do : behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.” The phrase, “you lead by example” is true in business, in battle, and in parenting (because parenting is like negotiating a business deal and fighting against an enemy at the same time). New school response: “I know you’ve seen me act in some inconsistent ways. I promise from this point forward to be a better example for you to follow. So no, you are not allowed to eat the whole bag of chips, but I will no longer be eating a whole bag at one sitting either. Here, let’s go make some individual serving bags together.”
3. “I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Yeah, so this one is doubly harsh. First, this old school parenting saying implies that whatever the child is already crying about doesn’t actually warrant tears. It is hugely important to not invalidate a child’s feelings. Well, it is hugely important to not invalidate anyone’s feelings, but that’s a whole other blog topic for another day. Children need to know that it is normal for them to feel upset or sad about a situation not going their way. As parents it is our responsibility to help them learn how to appropriately manage those feelings rather than teaching them to stifle, suppress, or ignore their emotions. Instead, teach the child about big versus little emotions and when it is appropriate to react in a big versus little way. Second, is it just me, or does this statement imply that some type of physical repercussion is coming if the child doesn’t pull it together? Maybe it is because Haitian culture is very much a “spare the rod, spoil the child” type of society, but I know that in my parents’ house that statement meant a spanking was coming. And as high as my tolerance for pain is, I was never one to test whether my parent was going to make good on that promise. New school response: “I’m sorry you are upset by what I said. I understand it means a lot to you, but at this time I cannot let you go outside to play since it is time to get washed up for dinner. And maybe if we can finish up with dinner early enough, you can go outside to play. But if not, you can go outside tomorrow after your nap.”
Okay, okay, I need to come clean about something. I’ve already used the old school parenting phrase, “because I said so.” My not yet three-year-old was insisting on watching Monster’s Inc. for the fourth time in one day. He was quite persistent and more than just a tad whiny, and my 9-month-old was trying to command my attention as all 9-month-olds do (read: by crying). So that good ol’ phrase just rolled off my tongue just as smooth and easy as butter. Once I realized what I had said, and after briefly pausing to wait for the tantrum I was certain was coming from my almost three-year-old (but didn’t), I quickly back tracked. I told him that I know how much he loves the movie and how much he really, really wants to watch it again. I went on to tell him that it was time to turn off the tv and start winding down before bath and bedtime. Since he absolutely loves a bath, turning off the tv was not a hard sell. And he didn’t tantrum. So even if you happen to let an old school parenting saying fly, just shake off that eerie feeling of knowing you have become your parents, admit your error, and try again with a new school approach.
Now’s your turn!! In the comments section below tell me about a time when you turned into your parents and went old school on your kids.