To You Who are Concerned
Why is it that sometimes setting and holding limits with our children that comes from a place of care and concern in our hearts, winds up becoming triggers when they come out of our lips? We care–we don’t want our children to fall off something, etc, etc, etc–but sometimes when we try to get that across and communicate to the child (“No jumping on the bed” or even “We jump on the floor or the trampoline”), our care may get lost in the way.
But the concern is the message I want to deliver–I’m not asking the child to do something just because; I’m asking because I’m concerned for her, I care for her and/or for another person–and I thought what better way to start communicating I’m concerned than by starting with saying exactly that: “I’m concerned that…” “I’m concerned that our bed frame is already broken and that the jumping will break the wooden slats even more (true story). I will help you. Let’s look for somewhere else you can jump.”
Some Observations About “I’m Concerned That…”:
- I found that when I start with “I’m Concerned That…”, I’m less likely to sound and feel frustrated of the fact that I have to hold a limit. I’m less likely to take a detour and end up in a place where I’ll get triggered because it reminds me of the place I’m coming from–a place of care and concern. And hopefully I’m able to deliver that message to my child–that I’m not just someone who is arbitrarily asking her to stop or to do something–I am someone who is concerned for her and for others.
- I found that thinking about how to start with “I’m Concerned That…” helps me check my intentions and reasons. In the book Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents (a selection of articles by Maria Montessori), Maria Montessori posed an honest caveat, “We say that we correct them [children] for their own good, and a great deal of the time we honestly believe it. But it is strange how often what we feel to be their good amounts to the same thing as our own comfort.” Now I’m not saying that we should not mind our own comfort and choices or our own limits and triggers as adults. Definitely the contrary. But I think it’s important that we are honest about our own comforts, choices, limits, and triggers and be truthful in communicating that to the child as well–and be contemplative of what we pass off as for the child’s “own good”. Starting with “I’m Concerned That…” in my head helps me distinguish if there is a real concern or if something is a matter of my own comfort/choice/limit/trigger–and that helps me consider better the response I hope to give.
- I am able to communicate my concern and the child can choose to take my suggested solution (if any) or she can think of another way to address my concern. One time my daughter was packing for a trip and she was putting in a lot of small/miniature toy pieces and I was concerned that we might lose something. So I expressed my concern, “I’m concerned that I’m seeing a lot of tiny pieces and I’m concerned we might lose something.” She then proposed that she would bring a mat so she can play the small pieces on it and that she would take a picture of all the pieces she’s bringing so she can check to make sure she doesn’t leave a piece behind.
I’ve seen how my daughter is more open to my message, to what I’m saying when I open with “I’m concerned that…” She becomes curious as to why I am concerned and she cares that I’m concerned. This way, I’m not the only one thinking of the concern–this way I just communicate the concern I have / the possible problem I see / the consequence I foresee and my daughter can think of a way to address the concern with me.
Nicole of The Kavanaugh Report has also written about her experience with “I’m Concerned That…” in her blog post “My New Favorite Parenting Phrase” (you can read about some examples of how she uses the phrase). Have you tried “I’m Concerned That…”? How’s your experience with it? I’d love to hear from you–please message me below or on @learnonmars on Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org