Monday, September 29, 2014

Heads Up!

     I asked our 4 yo why she was upset. I expected something along the lines of "He isn't being nice!" or "They won't let me play.", or even "They're mean!".
     What I heard instead was "I gave him wise council, but he won't make a good choice and he's annoying me and that's very rude!"  Whoa! Who taught this one how to talk?
     It's sometimes a little bit funny,  but always fascinating, to hear the phrases our family uses coming from the littles. We have quite a few of them. They're reminders. Easy, quick ways to sum up a larger idea. The four year old doesn't have a firm grasp on the idea of wise council, though. She thinks it means that her direct order is the same thing as good advice. She hasn't heard the chat about reminding someone of rules regarding safety especially, but also about any number of things. Being a good friend, being a good neighbor, etc. The chat includes information about how to remind someone. It should be done gently, with patience and love. When we give wise council, we have hope that the listener will make a choice that will keep them from injury, destruction of property, or mangling a relationship. We hope to help someone avoid a scenario that includes unpleasant consequences.
     The 4 yo has heard the phrase 'wise council' often enough along with a reminder of whatever the rules are, that she tried to use it to her advantage. She knows which words seem to please my ears. She has an idea that the phrases she's borrowed from the older the kiddos will soften me to her plight.
     After some investigation, I find that someone has something she wants and won't give it to her. She demanded that the object be given to her, but the order wasn't well received. Instead, the holder of the object made it clear that he wasn't ready to give it up, and that he didn't appreciate her demand. Eventually he ignored her, and began chanting some nonsense words as part of his play. Essentially, she truly was annoyed, and she did find it rude, but she wasn't giving good advice. She was tattling. Understanding already that her choice of phrasing would likely win her favor in the argument. Except, it didn't.
     The concept of wise counsel was explained, along with the concept of telling bad news in order to ensure that someone 'gets in trouble'.
     Even with our intention to teach the children how to be good friends and neighbors, to give grace and to be humble in receiving it, we've reduced some of these ideas to slogans. When a parent is faced with repeating certain ideas uncountable times each and every day, it makes sense to explain the concept, then attach a memory helper. It does work. It works when the child can actually connect the helper phrase to the concept. The older children have heard the concepts behind the phrases explained numerous times. The younger children hear bits and pieces by default. They hear shortened versions. Then they misuse the phrases.
     I do it, too. With grown ups, and with Jesus. I fling the phrases out there, knowing that they sound right, but just not feeling it. Saying the right thing, because it's easier than saying that I struggle, or don't want to get into the whole deep, time consuming truth behind the phrase. I don't have time, I'm feeling annoyed, I'm not getting my way.
     Oh, four year old, thank you for the heads up.


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