Singledadventures: Why I Let My Children Talk Back
I almost hate when my five-year-old daughter responds to me with “Actually…” It’s talk back. Truthfully, I think it’s kind of cute. However, I hear cute smugness and it makes me want to punish her or something.
A few weeks ago, between games of a baseball doubleheader I was coaching, I handed Cydney her lunch, and she inquired what was in the wrapping. My wonderful sunshine had asked me a bevy of questions before 12 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon I’d reached my limit for the day. I told her “A sandwich!”
“Actually, it’s a hero, daddy!” She quipped.
My head almost exploded. I briefly composed myself and told her in a tone that suggested ‘stop trying to correct me, damnit.’ I simply replied, “A hero is a kind of sandwich, Cydney.”
Without turning her head in my direction, one of the grandmother’s of a child on my team explained: “Children don’t mean to correct you. They’re just trying to show you they’re smart.” She wasn’t trying to stick her head in my business. The baseball team spends so much time together that the parents become family. Because of this, I was even more welcoming of the message this woman with more life experience conveyed.
In that moment, everything clicked. I expressed thanks for the insight and said: “I never thought about it like that.” She was right.
Adults often contextualize what children say and do with our knowledgeable paradigm. They are brilliant because they can learn to fluently speak languages by merely hearing them–and much more–based on observation. However, kids lack the practical contact with life that makes us as adults knowledgeable. It is a common misnomer to assume that a child’s response, like my daughter’s, to be undermining. That’s exactly what they would be doing if they were our peers.
Our children think we are greatest and smartest people on the planet. In their eyes, we can’t do any wrong (though this changes when they become teenagers and adults). Talking back and correcting is their attempt to impress us. They’re emulating what they see and are trying to show that they too have something to contribute.
One of the biggest lessons that I am trying to learn is that sometimes I need to let my children win. Because children are sponges, my daughter and nephew have picked up on my affinity of having a witty comeback for everything. It is endearing to hear the two of them go back and forth, and I’m especially proud of my girl for having the ability to shut down my 10-year-old boy. Nonetheless, when either try it in my direction, I tend to go the “your arms too short to box” approach. Deep down, both of my children know that they cannot win in a match of wits with me and I need to let them exercise a little more.
From a cognitive standpoint, my daughter’s affinity for asserting herself is positive. A brisk bon mot response is a sign of intelligence, and people gravitate towards people who think quickly on their toes. It has equipped her with a tool in which she can defend herself. Last Friday, the fourth day of school, Cyndey had a little “girl drama” with a fellow kindergartner in which my child was told the little girl no longer wanted to be her friend.
“You don’t need to be my friend, anymore. You can just be free and play by yourself,” my mini-me retorted. Truthful and hilarious, I was damn proud.