(Not) doling out looks and latitude

“Whenever I try to stop being in charge of stuff, life with the kids gets easier and more rewarding.”
– Robert Donjacour


From the archives: Posted on Wed, 30 Jul., 1997

Hi—Welcome to the List. I too was thrilled to find this sort of a list [the Taking Children Seriously forum] which advocates for kids, who so often don’t get respect and are bullied and ignored. I learned a lot from the folks here and now want to help share these ideas.

“I am lucky. I’m not sure how, but I seem to have mastered a “look” that I give my girls during their “Right Now” moments, that seems to (so far) settle the issue.”

This look worries me. What is the look saying? I sounds like a threatening coercive look.

“I’ve never hit them.”

Good. Is this look similar to hitting?

“I just make an ugly face and they postpone themselves. I have also began to discover that, at times, the softer my stance the more attention I receive from my kids.”

This makes sense to me. When I’m in a giving mood and less judgemental of my children, they too are more accepting. Taking your children seriously really does work.

“I have no idea what I’ll do when these things don’t work anymore.”

Are they really working? The looks may be keeping your girls quiet while they wait, but what else is it doing? It may be setting up a bad situation for them where they are unable to get what they want.

“Each parent is the best judge as to what is perceived as a threat to their children. It may not always be the most objective opinion, but I feel that it is the best. And although our children require our respect and latitude, the responsible parent is the one that assess the situation, expresses the respect, and doles-out the latitude with care.”

I don’t agree that the parent doles-out the latitude. The best thing is for kids to have infinite latitude. They get to decide what to do. Of course they will over do things. Particularly when they first get the freedom to choose for themselves.

I used to dole-out food to my girls. There was no real problem with their diet or mine, but I realised that treats were being sought for other reasons than just the enjoyment they got from eating them. Some books I read and a friend’s experience convinced my wife and I to stop being the food czars.

Our girls ate a huge amount of ice-cream, candy, cake, and hot dogs at first, but now are back eating pretty close the same diet we chose for them. But when we are presented with unlimited candy at a party the kids eat what they want and stop when they are full. It is a much better situation. Whenever I try to stop being in charge of stuff, life with the kids gets easier and more rewarding.

See also:

Robert Donjacour, 1997, ‘(Not) doling out looks and latitude’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/not-doling-out-looks-and-latitude/

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