Monday, July 29, 2013

Sticks and Stones

     I have a huge issue with name-calling.  I don't find it constructive in any way, shape or form.  To me, telling your child they are a brat is the same thing as calling them dumb, or stupid, or lazy.  Someone once told me that your children will believe they are whatever you tell them they are, and I am one hundred percent sure they were right.  The more I tell Punkgirl she is a great writer and so creative, the more creative she gets and the better her writing becomes.  The braver I tell Happyboy he is for wearing whatever style of clothing he truly likes, the braver he becomes.  
     So Coffeeguy and I are having a dispute over this.  To him, "stop being a brat" is equal to "end your rude behavior", and that's that.  To me, it's name-calling, and while, yes, I want my child to stop acting a certain way, I don't think the use of that particular terminology is going to do anything other than set up a head-butting match.  Now I know I suck at staying at home, but I know kids.  Coffeeguy often tells me that, in adults, I see them how they could be, the best part of them, but not necessarily how they are.  This is true, and I freely admit it.  But I think children should be seen that way.  We should see their potential, and emphasize that.  This is not to say that a punishment isn't in order, a grounding, a lost privilege, etc, but I believe that the way that punishment is rendered is equally as important as the punishment itself.  Do I stay calm at every challenging behavior? Hell, no.  But I try not to belittle or label the perpetrator.  There is no response to "Happyboy, you're grounded because you made a poor decision regarding the sharing of the wii, and you were rude to me when I tried to correct you", because both of those facts are specific, non-judgmental, and true.  "Punkgirl, you're grounded because you're being a brat" does not specify's very judgemental...and the truth of it depends on your perspective.  
     So let me get to the part where I suck.  Coffeeguy and I are co-parents, all the way.  We back each other up, even if we don't agree, and then discuss it in private.  So when Happyboy came to me, telling me he "needed to talk to someone", and haltingly revealed all of the things he did wrong, agreed that he should be grounded for doing those things, but sobbed because Daddy called him a brat, and Punkgirl calls him that all the time, I hedged.  I agreed that he should be grounded, but I told him that I disagreed with Dad calling him a name...I said that Dad was probably pretty frustrated with him, but that we would talk about it.
     Coffeeguy didn't like this convo.  He felt that Happyboy was using it to turn the subject away from himself.  I disagreed.  We sort of left it there.  This morning Happyboy was still grounded, and was angry that he had to write a book report (the standard punishment for grounding in our house) "all because Dad called me a brat."  I was taken aback, because last night he knew why he had been grounded, and I reminded him of that.  So who is right? Does Coffeeguy have a better handle on this, and am I just being a naive enabler? Or am I correct in feeling that it should have been addressed differently?  Suck at home moms, let me hear you, how do you handle discipline in your house?


  1. You are right. I had a parent who name called ad never explained why she was angry. It leaves you feeling inferior as an adult, always wondering what is wrong with you.

  2. To be fair, Coffeeguy doesn't often do that, but it's a pet peeve and it bothers me so much. My mother never name called, always stuck to what the problem was, and while she is aces at the silent treatment, that never left us feeling as if she didn't LIKE us.

  3. I have this issue right now with my 5 year old. I try very hard to differentiate the behavior from the person so much that I can't tell the dog he's a "bad dog!" in front of the children with out them becoming upset. But recently my 5 year old has been a brat. (In my head I used a stronger word.) I figured "acting bratty" was a good description for the unprovoked kicking of his brother, talking back, and generally snottishness he has discovered as a fun hobby, but now you are making me rethink this. The problem is that its an attitude more that a specific behavior. It's the way he huffs, the tone of voice he uses, the rolling of eyes. I think name calling is perhaps laziness- not pinpointing exactly what is wrong, but giving a general idea - and I think kids can't always tell what we mean. Great post.

  4. It's a funny thing...I definitely THINK those things in my head, too. I just feel like (especially with a twelve and a ten year old) we are constantly telling them not to name-call. It's a given that we have to set the example, and it's a given that sometimes, we WILL set a bad example--we're not perfect, and it's human nature. Happyboy is having the same exact behavior as your 5 year old, and he's 10, so believe me, it's difficult not to tell him he's being bratty! But I spent a few years teaching toddlers, and I think I learned a valuable lesson. They don't understand "not", or "don't", or most negatives, so you have to tell them what TO do. I find it is true of every age, from infant to adult ;)