A few months ago, I was having a chat with a mummy friend, so of course we ended up talking about our kids. She was telling me that her little one was asking so many questions it was driving her bananas. (We all have triggers, no judgy eyes!) My friend told me she sometimes refuses to answer the questions if her son isn't doing what she's asked him to do. I offered the suggestion that she try re-framing the message she was giving and instead, let him know that she was delaying giving the answer only until he had finished what he was asked to do. That way it wouldn't seem to his kid brain that she was withholding something from him. Her response was, "What's wrong with withholding?"
Honestly, I was a bit shocked and I really didn't know how to respond at that moment. I was trying to offer my friend support and a new perspective but I'd accidentally side-stepped into a parenting debate.
So I tried to let the question go and to see things from her perspective. After all, I'm a mum too, I get it.
Different things work for different families and even within a family, different things work for different kids. And even with the same kid, different things work at different times.
So what was it about her question, "What's wrong with withholding?" that had my head, my heart and my stomach spinning? It took me a while to figure it out, but when the answer finally came to me, it was so simple and clear. To me...
Withholding feels icky and it hurts everyone in the family.
I grew up in a family where withholding was a pretty standard parenting tool. Specifically, withholding information and love. As an adult, I can now look back and know that my parents did the best they could with the tools and experience they had at the time, but my inner child still gets shouty whenever I feel like someone's withholding from me.
I decided a long time ago that...
I will always find a way to let my kids know that I love them no matter what. And I will always find an age-appropriate way to answer whatever questions their little brains come up with.
Now that I'm a mum, I can't imagine withholding from my kids. That would mean not giving them the love and attention and affection they need to feel safe. Or not giving them the information they need to feel calm, stable and able to make their world make sense to them.
So I guess that puts me at the opposite end of the continuum on this issue: I choose on purpose to shower my kids with love and information every day and to trust them to sort through it, to take what they need and leave the rest.
Christine Marion-Jolicoeur helps mums create a family and life they love. She's a writer, bestselling author, parenting coach and creator of the Joyful Parenting Ecourse.
Happy families don't happen accidentally. Live and parent on purpose. Learn how at ChristineMJ.com