Memories of my dad losing his temper are surprisingly endearing. “Nuts, nuts, NUTS!” he’d growl. You know he wanted to say a bunch of other things. These mini explosions were usually because one of his four daughters borrowed something and “forgot” to return it…again (and now I feel his pain). I hated knowing Dad was upset, especially when I was the culprit, but looking back I’m touched by his effort to keep his expletives G-rated.
But I’m not here to share the obvious – we all know we should try to curb our language in front of the kids. What might not be as apparent is the need for respect surrounding toilet learning and diapering. Instead of referring to diapers as ‘dirty’ or ‘stinky’, I’m suggesting we use words like ‘wet’ or ‘full’ (or any other good ideas you might have) and offer children a change to diapers that are ‘dry’ or ‘fresh’.
What’s the big deal? Here’s why these seemingly minor child care details matter:
Self-worth, body image
We all want to raise a self-confident child with a healthy body image, but we might not see the foundational connection between self-worth and our child’s perception of her bodily functions. Imagine that in your most impressionable years, your beloved parents and care-givers tell you that natural parts of you are dirty and smelly.
Respect – it’s in the details
Respect for our youngest children is not a running theme in my blog — it is my blog. The purpose of everything I write is to provide a deeper understanding of what it means to respect children from the moment they are born. For me, personally, and for the many parents I have worked with, the major “Aha’s” come when we grasp the minor details– like the way we talk about wet diapers.
If we are open to shifting our vision to one of respect and willing to incorporate the details, we soon find it impossible to treat children any other way. There’s no turning back.
Respect means treating babies as we would like to be treated. Not as adults, but with an equal measure of thoughtfulness, empathy and courtesy. It’s about making the extra effort to see from our child’s point of view. And not just when it’s convenient — all the time. Babies need respect and consideration even more than we do because they are preverbal (so there is much they can’t express to us) and at their most sensitive stage of life.
Can you imagine announcing to your grandmother, “Pee-ew! I think I smell a dirty diaper,” and then yanking at the back of her pants to take a look without a word of warning? Not so cool. If we must refer to a smell, perhaps we could call it “strong” instead. Better yet, we could hold our breath and calmly, privately find a way to tell our baby that we will check her diaper, being as discreet as we would at tea with the Queen.
And speaking of the Queen, would we publish photos of her (or any adult) on the loo in order to illustrate an article about toilet training or EC? We consider these situations private, but we deem it acceptable to share our children’s personal moments with the world. We even see this as cute. Take it from someone who knows – when our kids turn 12 or 13, they are not going to appreciate this type of early exposure, in perpetuity on the internet no less.
Should we feel guilty and defensive if we have done these things? No. We certainly can’t be blamed for missing what society as a whole is in the dark about. But each of us has the power to make simple adjustments in the best interests of our children and, while we’re at it, be models and proponents of respect, which might eventually lead to the refreshing change babies need most…a world in which dignity for humans of all ages is a “given”.
(Photo by ~maja*majika~ on Flickr)