By the time Elizabeth was three she knew quite a bit; how to write and recognize the letters in the alphabet, the words to countless songs, how to count, her colors, shapes and opposites. She also ‘knew’ she didn’t look good in a t-shirt…
It was Halloween night and John took Zach (6), Elizabeth (3) and Olivia (1) to the downtown merchants in our community to go trick-or-treating. Zach was excited when they arrived at the local screen printing shop and discovered they were giving out free t-shirts instead of candy. Elizabeth, on the other hand, smiled politely and said, “No, thank you. T-shirts don’t look good on me.” John also smiled at the now-dumbfounded hander-out-of-t-shirts and accepted the t-shirt on Elizabeth’s behalf.
While most of you probably don’t have a child who happily turns down a free t-shirt, you all have a child who, like Elizabeth, has a mind of his/her own. They have definite likes and dislikes and things that interest them vs. things that bore them to tears. Your job, as their parent is to:
1. Allow your children to express these thoughts and feelings. So Elizabeth didn’t like t-shirts. No big deal. I don’t like the color blue and no one has a problem with that.
2. Teach your children to express these thoughts and feelings appropriately. Phrases like, ‘no thank you’, ‘I’d rather have…’ and ‘I don’t want any, thank you’ are appropriate. Phrases like ‘I hate that’, ‘No!’, and ‘Yuk’ or ‘Gross’ are not.
3. Encourage your children to grow and mature using these thoughts and feelings. Developing a sense of style or personality is not a bad thing. Enjoying books and music instead of soccer or baseball has its merits. Preferring art to math is not the end of the world.
4. Give your children the freedom to embrace and change these thoughts and feelings. Elizabeth decided to become a nurse before she was 10 and she’s a compassionate, gifted nurse, at that. As for the t-shirt ‘thing’, she outgrew it a few years later. These days you can find her sporting one just about any day of the week. And she looks just fine.
So remember, the opinionated little person sitting across from you at the dinner table isn’t trying to make your life difficult. He or she is just letting you know who they are and what they’re all about.
Happy birthday, Elizabeth,