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Recently, my son and I were in the restroom at the California Science Center. We heard a little girl crying and whining, and we heard the little girl’s mother tell her to “shut up.” Repeatedly. My son looked at me with wide eyes. In our house, “shut up” is considered a bad word; it’s not allowed to be spoken by anyone. And here’s why:
- Practice What You Preach. We don’t want to be told that our child was the one who said “shut up” during a classmate’s birthday party or at a play date. We don’t want our children uttering this phrase, so as parents, we shouldn’t either.
- Follow The Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. I don’t know of anyone who likes being told to shut up. So if you don’t like being on the receiving end of it, don’t give it out either.
- Teachers Can’t Say It. I was a public school teacher for twelve years. During that time I taught kindergarteners, fourth graders, and fifth graders. And never during that time, did I tell a child to shut up. No parent wants to hear that her child’s teacher spoke to her in such a rude way. Well, if we don’t want our teachers doing it, we shouldn’t be doing it either.
- Model Restraint. By not quickly yelling “shut up,” a parent models restraint, self-control, and a quiet, wait-it-out kind of mindset. Those are important life skills for our children to learn. They will face all sorts of situations in the future where “shut up” may seem like an easy response but will be completely inappropriate during a board meeting, for instance.
- Demonstrate Certain Level of Creativity. There are many other ways to get the point across without telling a child to “shut up.” I haven’t been teaching for three years now, but my husband says I still have the “Mrs. Kennar look and voice.” In my upper grade classroom, all it took was the look and a firm “Excuse me” to get my students to quiet down.
- Keep the Lines of Communication Open. Especially as our children get older and develop their own lives, we want them to know they can come to us. That as their parents, we’re here to listen, to help, to guide, to be there in any way they may need us. We want our kids to grow up knowing that they can speak to us and that we will listen. And both parties involved will be doing so in a respectful way.
- It Doesn’t Solve the Problem. Telling a child to shut up doesn’t deal with the issue at hand. Why do you need quiet? Did you just put the baby down for a nap? Are you trying to concentrate and balance the checkbook? Are you upset by a child’s off-hand remark? Has it been a challenging day, and you just can‘t take the incessant whining? Sometimes you need to explain yourself a bit so your child understands the bigger picture. Sometimes you just need to tell your child that you’ll talk in a minute, that right now you both need some quiet time.