Alex is four, the age where he wants to use big words, but doesn't know exactly how, and talking to him is very amusing.
The other day he told me that my dress is ooohsome! as he stressed on the oooh; and he called his father stooopid, because he was joking too much.
One word he used correctly, though, and made me stop. I have told you about that day in a different post. I was hurrying to take him to the kindergarten, and he was dawdling behind, squatting to gather fallen leaves, wandering to check this and that, and I was getting horribly late. Finally I grabbed his hand and dragged him with me. He stiffened, heels deep in the road, and said seriously:
- Don't pull me, mom, it's insulting.
I stopped, let go of his tiny had and even found myself apologizing. It wouldn't have been so surprised if he had just whined and screamed. It was curious, he did not complain "my hand hurts!", or "it's not nice!" or "you're bad", or even "I don't like it!" The word he used was "insulting". Well, which mom would like to insult her child?
In the next few days I observed him using this word anytime one of his brothers fought with him, or when his dad had no time to play, or when I asked him to do something he didn’t want to. It was even more curious, when he used the word "insulting", our reactions were different from when he would be stubborn or simply cry.
I realized, that the reason the word "insulting" works better than tears, shouts or a stubborn "no", is that we, despite all of our constant family squabbles, actually do not want to hurt each other’s feelings. Besides, "insulting" does not really qualify as a critique, it does not make you argue who is right and escalate the situation. It only describes the feelings of the person.
Our teenager recently has been late to the dinner table. That's the only time we all get together, it's our special time. We talk about our day, we joke, and we laugh. I mentioned it to him, his father also told him, but every time he had something more important to finish in his room and kept coming when the meal was almost over. This irritated me so much, that I wanted to take his plate with all the rest, before he had finished the food. I realized it's not the best course of action, he was already tense and jumpy and it wouldn't have helped.
So I decided to use Alex's favourite word.
Few days ago, as we were all seated, I announced:
- Boys, I have an idea. Why don't we all talk about what we find insulting, and wouldn't like the others to do. And we can promise not to do it anymore, because we are a family and we do not insult each other.
This got their interest.
Kosio, the teen, was of course sceptic, that's his default reaction to anything his father and I come up with.
Koko, the 10-year old, asked:
- You mean, to list all the things we DO NOT WANT the others to do, right?
- No. - I was ready with the answer. - That's not what I mean. If I was to tell you all the things I don't want you to do, I can speak all day. You too, I’m sure. I want to know the things I do that INSULT you, so I don't do them anymore. Your father wants to know as well. For example, I can start with this - I feel really hurt when I have cooked dinner and served the table, and you do not appreciate all the work I’ve done, and do not come to sit with us. It is very insulting, because it's our only time together. I really wish you wouldn't do it.
Kosio tried to defend himself:
- I only do it when I play online, my friends are counting on me, we are a team!
- I understand and I don't tell you to quit the team. I'm just telling you how insulting it is to me. You know what time we have the dinner. You will have to see and decide what to do.
He didn't answer back, which was a good sign. The little ones liked the idea and started talking all together.
Alex felt insulted when his brothers were pushing him out or shouting at him. (They often did so when he went in their rooms and touched their things).
Koko said that it's insulting when I promise him to do something right away and then I don't, delaying for an hour. (Yes, if I'm engrossed in work, I often do it, true)
Ivan was insulted when the boys acted like enemies, and not like brothers. (They do constantly fight and try to outdo each other.)
Kosio felt hurt and insulted when we said we're disappointed in him, without a valid reason. (We do say that - when he sits at the computer till late night, though his marks at school are not suffering at all).
Myself - I already spoke. The lack of respect for the effort I make to have a family dinner every night was insulting.
We promised each other to stop acting like this. Koko even made a list and marked with crosses every transgression. (I already have one mark, I promised him to check his homework, and here I am, writing this post.)
This story is told here with the permission of the teenager, who hasn't been late for dinner since. Probably he will eventually, but now it works and it is enough for me.
Alex, my youngest and most difficult child, gave all of us a great lesson in love and respect. I think I should teach him a new big word - emotional intelligence. He already possesses it.
The original version in Bulgarian you can read here.