Monday, March 26, 2012

20 Questions Parenting

This post on Misreading Daughters from the Femina Blog really got me thinking. Philip and I have four daughters (which you well know if you've been reading my blog for any length of time and yes, I know, the above picture is quite out of date now) and there are a few things we've noticed along the way.

While all our girls occasionally have difficulty explaining what is wrong, we have one daughter which requires what we call "20 Questions Parenting" when disputes arise.

"Are you sad?"
"Are you angry?"
"Well, why are you angry?"

She cannot seem to frame the perceived offense against her into words or explain why she is reacting this way to it. She becomes increasingly frustrated with her inability to make her obviously dull parents understand why her indignation is righteous.

We will not allow physical retaliation (and yes, we've had some from all of our daughters, even the youngest, at different times). We will not allow, as far as we are able, sinful reactions no matter what the provocation. The difficult thing is not all altercations have a "good girl" and a "bad girl." It's not always easy for a parent to unravel the situation. And then someone will play the "feelings" card: "Well, she hurt my feelings!" As though that was the ultimate trump card.

One thing you'll learn raising daughters: feelings are complicated. And they are not easily ignored.

A recent discussion wound down like this:
Us: "So, were you scared when your sister turned off the basement light?"
Her: "Yes."
Us: "Are you angry with her for turning off the light?"
Her: "Yes. Because I think she did it on purpose!" *Bursts into tears*

It took many questions to get to this point. We had to have the offending sister apologize. And then we had to hold and comfort our daughter who could finally see why she was so upset. She had to calm down before she could apologize in her turn for retaliating against the sister who had left her in the dark basement alone.

As easy as it would be to become frustrated with our less articulate daughter (or her sisters, when they have similar difficulties because they all do at times), I have to remember that sometimes I don't know why I feel a certain way either. Maybe I'm hungry or didn't get enough sleep or I want my husband to understand that when I am saying I am angry about something I'm actually sad about something I can't quite express and can't he just figure that out already?!

Just as my husband is not a mind-reader (he occasionally has to remind me of that), neither are my daughter's parents.

So I guess we'll keep asking those 20 questions. Or more, if that's what it takes.

So, friends, do tell: is there anything similar in raising sons? Have you ever felt like you were playing 20 Questions while parenting?


ginellebaskin said...

I feel your pain! My 2 1/2 year old seems to have only one response to all emotions--to scream. I'm always asking "What's the matter? What happened? Are you hurt? Etc?" I can't seem to get this boy to use his words to express what's wrong. It's very frustrating! I'm hoping with patience on my part he will outgrow this.

Karin said...

You've got such sweet girls!

Toni said...

Ha! 20 questions? My boys don't have 20 WORDS to use to converse with me. You have such sweet girls!

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