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 5-year-old incident occur with one of her closest friends. This friend was having a birthday and decided to graciously give each of her classmates, including my daughter, a gift in honor of this. 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: 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.
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. 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.
A version of this first appeared on The Brown Gothamite.