My sweet daughter was preparing to go out with me and very excited for some time for just the two of us. When my son assumed he too was going she said, “No, JJ you can’t go with us, it is just me and Mommy.”
I understand she felt special and excited, but her tone was less than polite to her almost two year old brother. Not wanting to quench her excitement or hurt my son’s feelings I told Adelle,
“JJ gets to spend time alone with Daddy while we are out, let’s help him feel happy to spend time with Daddy!” and I suggested she say something like: ” JJ, we are going to go out and you get to stay here and play with Daddy!”
I spent a minute explaining why we want to say nice things and make JJ feel good about the decision we already made for him. Then I felt like I was teaching her to manipulate her brother’s feelings.
I have had similar feelings when explaining to my daughter why we say please, thank you and ask for things politely. I have often said things like, “When you are nice and kind, people WANT to be nice to you too.”
After a few weeks trying to figure out if I was teaching my daughter correctly I think I have come up with an answer. I think the answer lies in our motive.
The truth is, most of the reasons we are polite are fairly manipulative. Is it okay to manipulate people? Absolutely not! But at the end of the day, can you really make people do what they don’t want to do? No (and I’m a big sister -and wife-, I’ve tried!).
Being polite and phrasing conversations in a positive light just helps people in their decision making.
What are our motives in all our polite lifestyles and positive takes on life? They can be self gratifying, but by and large, that is not why I am kind. In this situation with my son, I did want to get out of the house in peace, but I mostly wanted him to feel just as special as his sister.
When I teach Adelle to ask for her snatched toys politely, yes, I am looking to stop a fight and possibly a minor injury, but I mostly want my children to be happy and learn to be kind in adverse situations.
I tend to over think and over complicate, but in teaching my daughter why we smile and talk to people, ask for things politely and be a blessing I really feel like I am giving her the ability to manipulate people and situations. And in many ways I am, so with this I realize I must also guide her to having the proper motives.
We are kind to make other people happy and to keep peace.
So inevitably when she makes me explain why we behave in certain ways I will have to spend more time talking about how we make the other person feel and less about what we get out of it.