I'm not one to write extensively about the less than stellar accomplishments of my daughter. She already has to deal with her parents when she makes mistakes. She doesn't need to see a blog post at age 14 that talks about how awful she was during a random three week stretch at age 5. However, I am deciding to share this. Vaguely. My daughter did something at school that very much disappointed my wife and me. Based on this behavior, we decided to institute a way for her to monitor her words. She is now asked to consider three questions before she says something: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it respectful?
The questions are helping my daughter pause before she speaks and so far so good. We have no intention of quieting our daughter. But, it is important for her to consider more deeply what she says. We want her to develop and appreciate the purpose and potential impact of her words.
For instance, my daughter recently had a slightly humorous, very much five year old incident occur with one of her closest friends. This friend was gracious and gave each of her classmates, including my daughter, a gift in honor of her birthday. Later that day, my daughter, who had just the week before received a similar gift from this friend, shared a decision. She was going to give the new gift to her mother. My daughter's reasoning was that she already had one of these gifts and the colors on the second gift combined to make green, her mother's favorite color. Very thoughtful, right? But, my daughter did not consider her friend's feelings. Her friend was hurt and told Camilla she couldn't do that and then lashed out. This was a perfect moment to discuss the Is it Necessary question. Did her friend really need to know about this re-gifting idea? Wouldn't it be better to just wait to ask me if sharing this gift with someone else was a good idea? Even though her intentions were quite noble, what she said hurt her friend's feelings. So, this was an ideal teachable moment.
Sometimes, my daughter needs to pay attention to her tone. Sometimes, she intentionally asks questions to which she already knows the answers. Sometimes, she's desperate to avoid a nap on a Saturday afternoon and will say (and do) just about anything to stay awake. And then, there are the ridiculous things my daughter says when she is clearly in need of sleep. These are not even attempts at humor. Things like "I could pee all night." (I honestly do not understand what that even means. Who is this kid?)
Using these three questions and creating this opportunity for growth is essential. What I continue to learn and appreciate is the work it takes to be a competent parent. It is hard. It takes time. A lot of time. Sometimes it defies logic. But, if you are not willing to put in that time and consistently address a teachable moment (there's that term again!) in a clear, concise fashion, you are doing your child a great disservice. Your child deserves your A game, and you can't really take plays off. (Huzzah! I utilized a corny sports metaphor!) I really love this work! Brainstorming solutions to these real world problems is not only rewarding, but utterly thrilling. But, not as thrilling as seeing how these efforts influence my daughter's actions.
Recently, I shared the questions with a new mother. She asked me to elaborate on them, especially, "Is it necessary?" I explained that it is very much connected to the respectful question. But, due to time constraints and a surprising inability to recall some examples of when we used the "necessary" question, I wasn't able to provide enough explanation. So, thanks to that mom for inspiring me to write this. All the best in your new life as a parent.