For the longest time, I was told to “be-have” in school and when I go to friend’s homes. I learned that behaving meant doing what the parents said and representing our family. So this really meant being quite, not sharing family secrets and always saying “yes mam, and yes sir.”
But what happens when my friend’s mom asks me to undress. Or my friend’s dad touches me “by mistake?”
We are sending our children the wrong message when we tell them to behave and to be good and to listen to your elders and to be respectful. We are not even sending mixed messages, we are sending one message and that is to be a doormat; not a strong independent individual.
All of the words that follow “be” are adjectives that essentially reflect back to their parents. And the word “be” is a verb. It is an action. But the action represents something. The action forces our children to be confined to a box. The action requires our child to be subject to their new surroundings, instead of be aware of them.
Let me break it down with some of the most common commands we give our children before we or they leave the house.
- Be-have. This means to be good. Don’t cause trouble.
- What if someone is causing them trouble?
- Then what?
- How can they keep that command, and still protect themselves?
- If they protect themselves, does this mean they did not behave?
- Be Good. This means to not be the opposite, which is Bad. This means to be compliant.
- What is bad?
- What if they need to protect themselves?
- Would their actions against their perpetrator be considered “bad?”
- Listen. This means to do whatever they say. Always. “Yes Mam, Yes Sir.”
- But what if they tell them to do something inappropriate?
- What if they do something inappropriate to them?
- Be Respectful. This means to not disrespect.
- But isn’t someone touching someone else without permission being disrespectful?
- Isn’t someone hurting someone else disrespectful?
- So, your child has to be respectful but someone can disrespect them?
There are so many other “do’s” and “Be’s” that can be added to this list. The main issue I have is that NOT ONE of these protect our children.
When I send our daughter of to school, I want to make sure she knows she is a strong, powerful and beautiful girl. I want to make sure that she knows about who she is and how she needs to “behave” but I also want her to own herself.
The issue is that a lot of times this above list is used when kids are real little. Kids between the age of two and twelve are taught to do all of these things and ironically, sexual abuse begins to happen during this time. Why is this?
Kids between these ages are VERY literal.
There is very little wiggle room for children between this age because they are in the “pleasing” phase and they do not want to disappoint parents, friends, and other adults. The last thing they want is to be yelled at. So they learn real early to internalize how they feel because they don’t want to upset anyone.
THESE COMMANDS ARE ABUSIVE.
Parents, stop telling your kids how to act when outside of the house or when left alone with family, friends, or sitters. If you are raising them well within the home, they will know how to act outside of the home. Children are literal and when you rain down commands such as the ones listed above, you are inviting abuse into your child’s life.
STOP IT NOW.
My abuse started between age six and and nine. A little touch here, a grope there. A vulgar slur in earshot audibility EVERYWHERE.
“Ignore it” my adoptive mother would say.
He didn’t touch you, you guys were playing.
He didn’t mean to say that.
We grow up learning that these things that happen to us are part of the normal life and that we should accept it and move on. Because accepting it is behaving and moving on means you are forgiving.
We have stopped telling our daughter to ……
She now leaves the house with confidence and strength and the knowledge that she needs to stand up for herself….ALWAYS.
When she goes to school in the morning, we say: “Have a great day, and stand up for yourself. Don’t be the last one hit. I love you.”
This empowers our daughter who is 13 years old. She is no longer hearing how she needs to behave for people but how she needs to behave for herself.
It is not about representing the family. It is not about making us look a certain way. It is not about US. It is about her development, strength and pride.
Here’s the thing: We won’t be there for our children at every second and they need to learn to defend themselves. We can’t be helicopter parents for the rest of their lives. They need to learn and grow and mature and realize that they have EVERY ability to protect and love themselves as we love them.
For me personally, I can’t sit back and let my daughter come home with bruises on her face, or missing her winter coat because a bully stole it. She needs to be the one to not be the last one “hit” and she needs to be the one to talk to her guidance counselor about the missing jacket. These examples tell me that it is time my daughter starts standing up for herself and not wait for me to do things about it.
I want a strong daughter not for me, but for her. I’d rather see her in the office because she stood up for herself than her in the office because someone beat the crap out of her.
Obviously there is a balance to everything I have said in this blog. But at the end of the day, ask your child if they feel like a doormat, or someone who stood up for themselves?