When I was growing up, my mom talked to me like I was an adult. Honestly, I think I'm a better person for it. I've tried to keep the tradition going with my kids and now that I'm a parent, because I think there are so many reasons why moms who talk to their kids like they're adults are amazing parents.
My mother was a single mom from the time I was a baby until she remarried when I was 9 years old. During that time I was so acclimated to her speaking to me like an adult, I would be completely flabbergasted (not to mention mildly offended) when other adults talked to me like I was a kid. In fact, there is this fantastic picture of me at about 5 years old sitting on my maternal grandmother's lap with a look of bewildered consternation on my face. She has the look adults get when they're speaking in "baby talk." My inability to tolerate these shenanigans may explain why we were never close.
When you think about it, if you took all the things you say to your kids on a regular basis and pretended you were saying it to another adult, you'd probably be pretty embarrassed. Hell, we all would. At least it might shed some light on some things we'd like to do differently. This is why I think parents who talk to their kids like they're adults on a consistent basis are amazing parents:
Because They Respect Their Kids
I'll be the first to admit I don't always show respect to my kids (call off your angry tweets, I'm admitting to it.) I want to, though, and I have the best intentions to. However, sometimes my want for them to behave and learn right from wrong (or just for some peace and quiet for once) makes my lips act a bit faster than my brain. When that happens, my words aren't formed with intention but with urgency and impatience. If, in those moments, I can remember to stop and talk to my kids the way I would talk to another adult, regardless of my own emotional reactivity, I would default to respectful voice and language. Kids need to feel respected, just like everyone else.
Because They Don't Yell
Because how often do you yell at other adults? I mean, you want to, sure, but you don't.
Because They Include Their Kids In Decisions
When parents talk to their children like adults they tend to include them more in the process of decision making. As a result, their teaching their kids valuable decision-making skills they will use their entire lives.
For example, in our house everyone gets to choose what they want to wear as long as it's appropriate for the weather. We don't want anyone losing a leg to frostbite in the winter just because shorts are cool. When my 5 year old came upstairs with black and yellow Batman pants, pink-heart socks, and a tie-dyed shirt for school the other day, I could've said, "Whoa, buddy. That doesn't match. You need to wear something else." Instead I said, "Thanks for getting dressed like I asked. What should we have for breakfast?"
Though my partner may shudder and fear our kids will look like "hobos," this small act of respect allows them to develop their own sense of style, agency over their body, and the permission to practice decision-making on a smaller scale than when they leave for college and have to choose whether or not to drive after drinking a keg.
Because They Empathize
When an adult cries another adult doesn't roll their eyes and say, "Come on! What now? Are you having another tantrum?" Nope. They empathize. Which is exactly what parents who talk to their kids like adults do. Even if we get frustrated at the seemingly little things that cause big emotions in our kids, the validity of their big emotions is still important to acknowledge. When kids feel validated they're bound to become more resilient, thus reducing tantrums in the long run.
Because They Allow Independence
I have had my moments (OK, many moments) of helicopter parenting. Upon reflection, it's probably due to a combination of wanting to protect my children, wanting to teach my children, wanting others to think I'm doing what I should be doing as a parent, and because I actually have no idea what I'm f*cking doing. I could be wrong, but I doubt this is an uncommon experience for parents.
Talking to my kids like they're adults creates less separation and more trust in them. As a result, my kids enjoy more independence. They absolutely feel the difference when I'm talking to them in this way versus the aforementioned helicopter harpy. Trusting my kids to be age-appropriately independent actually makes them more likely to do the right thing instead of less.
Because They Help Their Kids Problem Solve
Much like including their kids in decision making, talking to kids like adults can also help the children problem solve. If you're like me, when you're in adult-talking mode you're much more likely to ask for ideas about solutions to dilemmas that come up rather than taking the reigns yourself without including your kid.
Obviously, kids' abilities to find solutions to complex problems will vary given their ages. However giving them the opportunity to practice problem solving makes it more likely that they'll use those skills themselves. I've also found my kids come up with some supremely creative solutions that, in my limited by adult brain, I never would've come up with on my own.
Because They Don't Accidentally Shame Their Kids
Parents accidentally shame their kids all the time. It's not just what we say, it's how we say it. Talking to a kid like an adult can alleviate some of that tone-fueled shame. Try it for yourself and see the difference.
Say the following sentence first as if you're talking to your 5 year old who just threw his food all over the clean kitchen floor. Then say it as if you were talking to your adult friend who spilled their plate of food.
"What are you doing?"
See the difference?
Because They Leave Room For Mistakes
Parents who talk to their kids like adults don't chastise their kids when they make mistakes. After all, we don't do that to adults, do we? Instead, you assure the person that mistakes are a part of life and that we can actually use them to get better at a task or learn how we'd like to do things differently. Parents who speak to their kids like adults seem to be more forgiving of honest mistakes without excuses bad behavior.
Because They Create Less Of A Hierarchy
Which may seem like a bad thing in a family where we're taught parents are supposed to be at the top of the food chain, showing everyone who is boss. However, in reality and when kids, even young ones, feel like they have are respected and have some ownership over what happens in the family, they tend to use that respect wisely. They also tend to view their parents more positively in the long term, according to a recent study by the University of Missouri.
Because They Model Equanimity
When I am speaking to my children like they're adults it's usually because I feel calm, balanced, and in control of my reactivity. The opposite is sometimes true when I'm talking to them like they are kids.
Yes, I know that kids are not little adults. Y,es I even know that there are some totally appropriate times to go all goo-goo, gaa-gaa with my kiddos. But what it comes down to is this: I want my children to see in me a model of how they will behave in the world. If I don't teach them that, who will?