Buffy asks: My daughter is very outspoken. It gets her in trouble in school with her teachers. What should I do?
Hi Buffy –
What a great great question! It gets to the heart of so much!
You see, I think it’s just GREAT when kids are outspoken! You’ve probably heard of the rule that was common about a hundred years ago, “Children should be seen and not heard.” Well I disagree with that completely! I think kids are brilliant and honest and hilarious, so I think they should be heard even more often! (Of course I especially think children should mostly be smelled, but I know most humans don’t!)
But I also realize that there are humans who don’t share my view on this. More importantly, it’s also really important that children are in school, they learn the appropriate behaviors there, which include sitting still, raising their hands, speaking respectfully, and only speaking when allowed. And the reason these behaviors have to be taught is that they are completely unnatural for kids!
The mistake a lot of parents make is to indulge their kids’ openness when they’re alone together, without really explaining why they need to behave differently in public, company, or school. The trick is to treat it as a game. “How do soldiers behave (stand straight, march, etc.)? How do we act at Buckingham Palace? (bowing and curtsying, say “Your Majesty”) How do we act when we get let out for recess? (running, yelling, jumping) And how do we act in the classroom (sitting politely, raising hand to speak, saying ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ perhaps!)”
Now of course, I’m going on the assumption that your daughter is quite young! For all I know, she’s 15! If I’m wrong and she is a teenager, then I’d say that it’s too late for you to do much about her outspokenness. She’s the person she is, and this time may well be the most outspoken she’ll ever be. But when the teachers at school come down hard on her, and make her stay for detentions or whatever, you might want to sit down and have a good talk about making adult choices!
Either way, your real job is to help her find ways to behave appropriately, without losing any of her outspoken fiery spirit! If you can achieve that, you’re being a perfect parent.