Alexia L. asks: ““Bwoy! How dem yah nowadays pickney brite so? Weh mek dem nuh undastan she ah nuh everyting dem see big people do dem fi follow?”
People tend to overestimate how smart kids are and how strong the bond is between parent and child. It is always the things you are trying NOT to teach them that they learn the quickest.
It always surprised me why some parents were so amazed or distraught at some of the things that kids pick up on readily. It apparently slips their minds that the stuff that kids SHOULDN’T be picking up on are the EXACT things that the kids are most attune to.
For example, I was catching up with Ms Anwar recently and she told me about how her little toddler was acting up at school. The teachers had mentioned that the little one was being a bit more aggressive and displaying a bit of an attitude. So mom sat down and started looking into reasons why the youngster would be acting up this way. Sure enough, after some soul-searching she realized that the little one was mimicking someone’s behavior – her mom’s. Yes, mom was going through some recent stress and unbeknownst to her, the little one was somewhat empathizing with her mom – to the point where she was acting out a few of her mannerisms. luckily, mom made a few adjustments and the toddler is back to her old self again.
That’s why sometimes when I see a parent or caretaker going in on a child in public and you listen to what they are saying you cannot help but wonder: what is the child taking from hearing you kvetch about stress you’re going through?
There is no reason to be saying half the stuff I hear some parents say to their kids. Sometimes I have to wonder if they don’t have someone else that they can vent to and not have the kid trying to figure out what is going on – “why I am getting chewed out to the Nth degree over something as simple as not tying my shoelaces or making us late for the bus”? There are times that the child will think that they are the sole cause of all these issues they have no understanding about and run the risk of taking on baggage that clearly doesn’t belong to them with serious consequences.
While it’s hard enough to see how overly exposed baggage or stressors from parents can impact smaller children, it becomes even more difficult to detect as the child ages. Remember, kids are watching and learning from us how we talk to people. Therefore, whatever your communication style is (assertive, passive, passive-aggressive, aggressive) that’s the first style the child will take in. If yelling and screaming and degrading someone is the way you get them to do things for you, what approach do you think that the child is gonna take?
One thing I used to hate as a child – and got my ass whopped a few times over it – was the ““yuh ah pickney, yuh nuh know nothing.”
I remember having a cousin who was pretty emotional whenever she was under stress. I did my best to try to comfort her, but she always looked at me and gave me the line: “dis bigga dan yuh.”, or “yuh ah pickney, yuh nuh know nothing”. So I learned that when she started to look stressed, I stayed away. Then one day something really stressful happened and everyone was surrounding her, trying to comfort her to no avail. So eventually I walked over and said something that was able to calm her down – to the amazement of all, especially my crying cousin. Someone said to me in that moment: “wow, I didn’t know you could speak like that. To which I replied ““ah nuh all di time pickney nuh know nothing” and walked away.
If a child sees a parent in distress, their natural instinct is to try to do something to help. The worst thing a parent/caretaker or adult can do is dismiss the sentiment behind that. In doing so, one of the messages you tell the child is that you don’t value what a child can do for you in times of distress. They also don’t learn how to respond appropriately to others during times of grief, sorrow and great adversity.
““Do as I say, not as I do” can make a very lasting impression on a child, and often the impression left is not the one the parent intended.
Sometimes parents don’t know what to say to a child trying to offer them comfort. Maybe the stress is just too much that they don’t want to break down in front of the child and add comforting them into the mix. Perhaps the situation touches on something that the parent is just not in a space emotionally to address the questions a child may have. Whatever the case may be, sometimes all the kid wants is to know that you’re OK or you will be – the best way to do that is some sign of reassuring affection.
Kids are not stupid, no matter the age. More and more they are proving us right in that we have to watch what we say to them and around them. As a wider community responsible for looking after the next generation, we should give them a voice and teach them what they need to know, and try to show them “Do as I say, not as I do – because from time to time I can make mistakes to” is a big part of what it means to be human.