Saturday, August 28, 2010

Own It

I found this notion in a book, but I don't recall which one.

I have noticed in myself--and in many other parents--the habit of referring to themselves in the third person. "Mommy doesn't it like it when you do that" "Daddy has to go now." It's a form of separating oneself from ones actions or feelings, and I've come to the conclusion that that's not a healthy thing to be teaching our children.
After all, when Bobby hits Johnny, don't we want him to take responsibility for what he did? When Janie feels angry, shouldn't she be able to own her emotions, and be accountable for whatever actions she takes? Of course they should, and so should we.

We refer to ourselves in first person when talking to other adults; I don't go to the bank and say "Jenni would like to make a deposit today," do I? So what is the difference with children? Sure, perhaps we're trying to reinforce identity by referring to ourselves by name ("mommy") but I think that kids can figure that out by other means.
So when my baby is testing out his sharp new little teeth, and bites me, I say "ouch, you hurt me!" rather than "oo, you hurt mommy." Mommy isn't some disconnected person, it's ME and I just got BITTEN! When "I" am hurt, when "I" need to go, when "I" am upset, I am owning my feelings and my actions. (There is a second part to that of course, that nobody can 'make' anyone feel anything. They can say or do things we don't like, but our feelings are our own...)


ashley said...

How interesting! While I don't have children, I do find myself doing this with our dogs-- often. I had never really thought about why we do these things, but this makes sense!

Jessica said...

I totally agree with this. There is a lot of talk in our society about women "losing themselves" when they become mothers and that they need to have some career outside the family to be a "whole" person. I feel like if I refer to myself in the third person then that is exactly what I am doing - losing myself. If I were at a "real" job I wouldn't talk about myself in the third person. It seems like such a small thing, yet when I use "I" instead of "Mommy" I am fully present rather than removing myself by speaking in the third person.
I have also found that my children respond differently depending on how I speak. For example, to use your incident of getting bitten, if I say, "You hurt Mommy" they just shrug it off - they hurt someone who isn't fully present. If, however, I say "You hurt me" then I get more attention. "Me" is someone they can relate to since "me" is also a term they use to refer to themselves.
Sorry its so long - just my thoughts.

Katrina said...

Mainly the only reason I do this is with very young children who don't yet know how all the pronouns and names fit together. So if I say "me" they don't, at first, always know that's the same as "Mommy."

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