Nagging as low level violence
I spent a recent weekend at the cottage with 2 women and a small delightful child of three. Good company, fun times, but there was one thing that bothered me greatly. The two adults around this feisty little girl were constantly trying to correct her, direct her, organize her, do for her – in other words nagging her to abstraction. I tried to picture an adult in the child’s position. Say an elderly person who had a caregiver beside them at all times. Now some things the elderly person can do for themselves, some they can’t and some things might be downright dangerous to do. But really how would you like it to have someone beside you day and night commenting on what you’re doing, giving you advice, warning you of dangers. No matter how well intentioned, this is still an overwhelming amount of attention. The constant chatter can be downright overwhelming.
What I noticed too was that much of the talking that was done “at” the child, was unconscious. It was so constant that I could only conclude that whatever popped into the caregivers head, she spit out right away, without giving it much thought. Normally when with another adult, we don’t allow ourselves such a luxury, to actually speak everything we’re thinking. That could get downright offensive. And it was. Because much of the chatter was also negative comments on what she child should be doing different. They’d be “shoulding” all over her at an overwhelming rate.
We all bought an ice-cream. For some reason the mother thought it appropriate to let her choose her own flavour and have her own ice-cream – they had no kiddie cones here, so this was a regular size ice-cream exactly like all the adults around her. Now this is three-year-old, the ice-cream cone was almost as big as she was. OK, so she felt good about making her own decision here. But she paid dearly for that little luxury of choosing her flavour and cone. After that it was all downhill because for the next 20 minutes she was regaled with a constant barrage of instructions and reprimands and warnings as to how not to eat, how to eat, what could happen if the cone got upended, what could happen if she let it drip. What the exercise did was satisfy the mother that she’d allowed the kid her own choice, in the mean- time punishing her for making that choice. It was sad to see, tiresome and anything but enjoyable.
What would have been better would be to do some thinking ahead of time, as to what the child is capable of and to offer her experiences that lead to success as much as possible. What I would have done and what I did with my grandchildren, is to buy only one ice-cream and share it. And gradually give them practice in holding it up straight, in licking from the bottom and all the niceties of ice-cream eating, which is actually not a simple task.
No wonder our children end up with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, because they’re being constantly criticized. That’s how the parents were raised and unless they stop and examine the pattern they were raised with, that’s the pattern they repeat. As they say those who don’t know their history and doomed to repeat it.
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