Parenting is a series of mountains that need to be scaled. Some of those mountains are actually quite reasonable in size, while others are absolutely gigantic, while others seem to never, ever end. Communication between a parent and a child is, most definitely, one of those mountains that just won't end. It’s like children are hardwired to ignore or mishear or misinterpret what you’ve said. You'll say a thing, they'll do another, and you're left wondering if what you said is what your kid actually heard. More often than not, I'm guessing, the answer is a hard, resounding "no."
For instance, my four year old sometimes asks me if she can have something that’s, well, pushing the envelope; like candy for breakfast or watching a television show just a few minutes before bedtime. If I’ve said no, which I usually and inevitably do, she will actually go to her father and ask the exact same question. Thanks, kid. If she asks him the question first, and I answer instead, she will turn to me and say, “I was asking Dada, not you.” I mean, what? I’m sure we can all guess how those teen years are going to work out for everyone at my house.
What’s crazy, though, is that the constant tendency to misinterpret everything parents say is not just a talent of my own children. It’s like all of our kids have some kind of unwritten agreement to make things as hard on us as they can. So, don't be surprised if what you say in the following scenarios, doesn't necessarily match up with what your kid heard.
When It's Time For Dinner
What you say: “Alright, it’s time for dinner! Can you come to the table, please?”
What your kid hears: “Why don’t you go to the fridge and find something to eat? Seriously, whatever you want! Don’t worry about what I cooked, I just want you to be happy!”
When It's Time To Get Dressed
What you say: “Can you please get dressed?”
What your kid hears: “It’s play time! Why don’t you run away, naked and giggling, while I try to put your clothes on?”
When It's Time To Clean Up
What you say: “Can you please pick up those toys?”
What your kid hears: “Hey, why don’t you leave those toys in the middle of the floor and go find some different toys to pull out and play with? When you're done, you can leave those new toys in the middle of the floor, too."
When It's Time To Leave The House
What you say: “It’s time to go! Quickly, please, or we’ll be late.”
What your kid hears: “Is that outfit itchy? Would you like me to change it? Or did you want to wear your favorite jacket from forever ago that no longer fits and that you haven't thought about in ages? Let me go find it for you while you run around the house like a crazy person. This is the most fun.”
When It's Snack Time
What you say: “Would you like a snack?”
What your kid hears: “Would you like some chocolate or ice cream or candy or pure sugar, straight from the jar? How about all of the above?”
When Your Kid Can't Have Something....
What you say: “No, you can’t have ____.”
What your kid hears: “Why don’t you ask your other parent the exact same question? I’m sure they will give you the answer you wanted to hear.”
...And When Your Kid Can't Have Something In A Store
What you say: “No, you can’t have that toy we just walked by in the store.”
What your kid hears: “I’m saying no right now, but if you scream and kick the floor in public long enough, I will absolutely say yes.”
When You're Trying To Get Them To Eat Vegetables
What you say: “You have to finish your vegetables if you’re going to have dessert.”
What your kid hears: “Just hide those vegetables under your plate or rolled up in your napkin or, better yet, feed them to whatever pet we have. I will definitely not notice!”
When It's Time To Brush Those Teeth
What you say: “I’d like you to brush your teeth now, please.”
What your kid hears: “You must be hungry, since it’s two minutes before bedtime. How about a bedtime snack? Perhaps you’d like something that is particularly hard to get out of your teeth?”
When It's Time To Go To Bed
What you say: “Time for bed!”
What your kid hears: “Blah blah blah”