Oh dear, I’ve had a bit of a conundrum to deal with lately. How do I point out to my girls the potential damage of their criticisms of each other without criticising them about it?
I already know from previous realisations that it doesn’t help the child if I yell at them to “be quiet!” or if I snatch an item off them that they’ve just snatched off another child. So how do I increase their awareness of the negative side effects that occur from criticising someone, without my attempt at enlightenment appearing to be a criticism itself – which it is, to be fair?
Now, I know that the best way for children (and indeed all human beings) to learn is to see the positive behaviour in action, to have it modelled for us. So I’ve been working away at modelling “not criticism” for my girls (most of the time). However the fly in the ointment here is that it is really, really, not obvious to someone that we are not criticising them. For example: a child is happily singing a song and the words are not correct. I choose to say “oh, I’m enjoying your singing” or just smile, saying nothing, or even just doing nothing at all – after all it’s not really about me is it, it’s about her joy in her song. Really, who cares if she’s singing the “wrong” words. Her big sister however feels the need to point out that little one has the words wrong. If I then jump in and say “oh, it doesn’t matter about the words, it’s the love of singing that matters” I’m then criticising the big sister for criticising her little sister. Doh!
Yesterday I was having lunch with a wonderful wise woman to whom I posed this potential dilemma. She suggested that perhaps I could utilise Shakespeare’s way of taking the air out from under the criticism moment by way of humour or clever irony. Perhaps I could work with the girls to create this – similar to our “tip top” (in sing-song voice) which means “please stop rocking on your chair, it’s not good for the chair and potentially not good for you either” J. I’m keen to give this a try. If nothing else it has the possibility of raising their awareness about criticism and having them consider other alternatives to just diving in and correcting someone because we think they’re doing something wrong, by our definition.
Well, I’ll be back to update this with how we go along this journey.