Allowing Children to Retain Dignity

I had a conversation with another parent the other day. She mentioned a moment where her daughter spilled a glass of juice. Her typical response would have been to react… to be impatient, shout, blame, to huff, sigh, snort or something like that, she said.

In this particular moment she didn’t do anything. For some reason, she just paused and looked at her daughter. This split second allowed her to see something. She saw that her daughter was somewhat frozen in the moment… looking at her mom, anticipating the blame and negativity that was going to come.
This parent saw clearly for the first time that her daughter was fearful and nervous of her mother’s reaction…all over a spilled glass of juice.

This had an impact on the Mom for a couple reasons. She hadn’t realized the degree to which she had been blaming and reprimanding her daughter, but the child’s conditioned response told her all that she needed to know. This was not the relationship she wanted to have with her daughter, not even close.
The other realization she had in the moment was, “Don’t children get to make mistakes”?
“As adults, we get to make mistakes without being embarrassed like this. Why should we not give children the same allowance”?

She’s right. We should be forgiving, especially considering that children, their bodies, and their brains are still developing. Their coordination is not fully developed. And! The voices we use with them become the voices in their head that either bring them down or lift them up later in life. We are in a powerful position as parents.
To illustrate the point let’s imagine the adult dinner party.

What would you want to have happen if you spilled a glass of wine on the table, carpet or worse, your friend’s lap? This kind of thing happens all the time. Would you be shamed?

The response is different isn’t it? The other adults are usually helpful, forgiving, and try not to make a big deal of it. They realize that mistakes are a part of life and that everyone makes mistakes.
Why is the reaction different with children then?

The answer is this. We allow other adults to retain their dignity. In fact, we go our of our way to help them retain their dignity.

If we give other adults patience, support and forgiveness, could we not do the same for our children?
Do you think that we could respond to our children’s mistakes in a way that would allow them to still feel human, loved, and worthy of patience and respect?

What would happen if we parented in a way that fully respected the dignity of children? What happens when we don’t?

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