My kids have been getting a real kick lately out of watching Master Chef…and some of the older girls have been watching Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t know if you are familiar with Chef Gordon Ramsay or not…he’s quite a character. Not one to mince words, always driving people to do/be their best, pushing them hard to work and reach for their dreams while occasionally losing his mind through the process of leading the would-be chefs.
Boy I can relate. I came home one night after a dinner out with a friend to find the oldest girls cracking up watching Hell’s Kitchen telling me that they just love Chef Ramsay because he’s just like me. Aw man. And I hesitate to share this with all of you because if you watch this guy, he’s rough. He’s tough. He’s one easy-to-tick-off-hard-to-please employer/coach. And here my girls are laughing telling me they love him because he is “SO YOU MOM.”
I have had moms come to me all condemned and convicted that they have raised their voice at junior. I have had moms cry with me on the phone telling me that they feel so guilty for yelling at their kids. And no, I am not condoning all out denigration or yelling at your kids because YOU are in a bad mood…nor am I putting a stamp of approval on verbal abuse. But somewhere along the way we have been told that we must be gentle with our voices at all times. We must be careful not to ever raise our voice to our children, and we must at always be sweet, encouraging, dripping with kindness and overly sensitive to their self-esteem.
Now let me ask you this…
Is junior’s football coach gonna be all super sensitive? How about that teacher…the one everyone says is a stickler…is she going to be so sweet, all the time? What about when junior gets yelled at by his ROTC leader, his employer at Publix, or her track coach? If we have so sensitively raised our children, shielded them from real reactions from real people for substandard work or sub-par effort, they are going to be in for a shocker when real life and real people begin to interact with them.
We do our kids a grand disservice when we handle them with such kid gloves. We treat them as weak and then we wonder why they can’t handle scrutiny or criticism. We don’t push them hard in their efforts and call them out when they don’t give it their all, and then we wonder why no one wants to hire them or have them on the team.
“ALL OF YOU! GET OVER HERE NOW!” I hear Chef Gordon blast throughout the entire kitchen, calling his team over to rant about some poor slop’s complete ineptitude, lazy misfire, or smart-aleck attitude. Oh no…this time, some contestant was caught mocking Chef behind his back…(the girls are all laughing hysterically remembering a time one of them got a very similar upbraiding from me for doing the exact same thing) “Mom, O MY GOSH, he sounds just like you! And we all go walking over to you like, ‘aw crud, who did what now??!!” The girls are cutting up about it, and actually telling me how thankful they are that I am not afraid to confront.
So don’t go all Chef Ramsay on your two year old, obviously. But as they age and mature, as you train them up, there are going to be times you will sound more like Chef Ramsay than Mr. Rogers. And I’m here to tell you, that’s fine. Done in love, sandwiched with “I Love You” and given your proven track record for always having their best interest at the heart of your every motivation…a little bit of yellin’ is inevitable. It can even be beneficial. But what can be harmful is sheltering your child from being able to handle when someone (coach, teacher, or employer) loses their cool.
(quick disclaimer: I love and grew up watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I think his lifetime career changed children’s television and his calming, nurturing voice is definitely what is appropriate as a parent to small children. I simply want to dispel the myth that we must always speak so softly to our aging and maturing children who will not always be handled so delicately in the real world.)