I don’t like that.
Please don’t touch me.
Please don’t take things from me.
I wasn’t done with that.
You can have a turn when I’m done.
I’d prefer more space, please.
Excuse me, I was waiting in line. Please wait your turn.
That’s not polite.
The list goes on and I add more to it all the time.
What is this list? Well essentially it’s the list of phrases I’m adding to my daughter’s ok to say list. She’s 2.5 years old now, and I want her to know she can stand up for herself. I want her to know she can do it in firm but polite ways.
What else is does this list represent? It’s a list of all of the things I never say for myself. I am SO aware of it now that I’m a mom.
Not only am I saying these things for myself more often now, so my daughter can see me model this behavior, I am teaching her to say them as well.
I don’t care the age of the child. If a 10-month-old snatches something from my daughter, she is allowed and encouraged to say she wasn’t done with it, and he can have a turn when she’s done. Now, I’m also taking the time to explain to her that the 10-month-old doesn’t understand, and he’s still learning– just like she once was at that age. But the fact that he’s learning only makes it that much more important for her to say those things. I welcomed others speaking up when my daughter was that age. I spoke up for them if they didn’t, and told my daughter to give the toy back.
And, if an older child or a child her age does something like this, she’s absolutely in the right to say something.
If an adult takes something from her without saying something or being polite about it, she’s also encouraged to speak up then.
If anyone touches her and she doesn’t like it, she’s encouraged to say something. She doesn’t have to hug anyone, even her grandparents, if she doesn’t want to.
Children don’t have to share toys just because someone else wants a turn. It is the nice thing to do, but it’s certainly not mean to say you aren’t done with something. Adults don’t just give things up to some stranger just because they want a turn. It’s absurd if we expect our children to do this.
I am also teaching my daughter about being nice– but not at the expense of her own feelings. Not at the expense of her own learning and her own fun. My daughter is a super nice toddler and is always thinking of those around her. But she’s also going to be a toddler that can say no, say what she wants, and how she feels.
Today a little boy she was playing with accidentally hit her with a stick. It wasn’t hard, and she was ok. He was completely oblivious to it. My daughter said something. She said, “He bonked me. That hurt. I don’t like that.” I was so happy she spoke up for herself! She’d said it loud enough for him to hear, but I encouraged her to tell him, not just me.
That same little boy moved a rock she had specifically placed out of the creek to take home. Again she said, “He moved my rock! I don’t like that.” I praised her, because it’s ok for her to say things like that. I also asked if there was another place she could perhaps keep her special rock to prevent things like this from happening. I reminded her that he probably didn’t know her intentions with the rock and encouraged her to explain this to him as well.
If I have any regrets in my life, it’s that I didn’t speak up enough. I didn’t speak up enough when I wanted to say no. I’ve gotten taken advantage of in so many situations. I don’t speak up in those moments when some rude lady decides to stand in front of me like she didn’t see me waiting in line. But I do now. For my daughter. And if I don’t, she totally would do it for me. That makes me so happy and so proud. I’ve gotten through to her and empowered her to stand up for herself.
It’s ok to hold others to the same high standards we expect of ourselves. It’s ok to hold adults accountable for their actions. And it’s ok to hold children accountable for theirs, as well. Yes, they are learning, and the learning will only increase as a result. If done correctly, the village forms. It’s no longer just one mom having to correct her own child. Other children and other moms can speak up. It’s all of our responsibility.