May 11, 2010

Stupid is as Stupid Does

A post about modeling.   

(Sorry to disappoint you with no pictures of me in the newest clothes to hit the runway - you're welcome.  This is not about that kind of modeling.)

We try very hard in our house to value each other as well as every person or animal that we meet.  It is not actually all that hard, I tend to view people in their positive light before I ever notice their flaws.  I don't think this is a bad thing.

The thing is that we send our daughter out into the "real world" every day by sending her to preschool.  We love every aspect about the care she has gotten since she was ten weeks, so don't look for this post to blast that choice.  We are extremely happy that we chose to send Abby to daycare, even so young.  Many added benefits.

But she learns things at daycare.  She learns so much every day that in our house we call it "school" and not preschool.  She had learned colors before she could really even say them.  She learned shapes early enough that she's already able to draw circles, triangles and squares.  She has learned most of the letters of the alphabet in more detail than "The ABC's Song" - what words they start and how they sound and such.  She knows many more songs that we even uncover at home because she sticks to two of her favorites and the others don't come up.

But she learns things at daycare.  She learned to spit and push at daycare.  She may have learned this from her peers, but might have had it in her and it just came to revelation at daycare.  I prefer to believe the "blame school" side of things, as I am the first to give school the credit for having taught her all of the great things in her education, like the stuff in the paragraph above.

The thing that drove me really mad that she learned at school was the proper use of the word "stupid."  "Daddy, you're stupid" is not something that I was prepared to hear from Abby just yet, but it is something I was greeted with during silly play at home.  There was nothing to invoke it, we were just playing, but out it came.  I was ready to drop all of the good things that I have ever said about how great daycare has been for Abby's cognitive and social development.  Gone in that instant were my continued high hopes for her to continue to be the cute AND smart girl.  Now, thanks to daycare, she was going to be the cute terror of a child that drives her parents to the asylum.

But then I realized that it was TV.  

Abby watches TV, and I am not going to continue to apologize for that.  A lot of the movies that she watches - Shrek and The Grinch come to mind - use "stupid" as if it was a prefix to your name.  "Stupid Donkey" has to come out in each of the movies, at least twice. I realize that the movies are not designed for toddlers, so I can not and do not fault the movies, but I realized how much the word pervades in other shows/movies, like Madagascar and such.  Shocking, but it should not be. 

After I realized that, I realized something really sad - it was not the movies, it was ME.  

It was me that calls me stupid.  I have never, and will never, call Abby (or Anny) stupid.  But my self esteem is not the best, so when Anny calls me on something my response is typically "yeah, I know, I'm stupid."  Abby was hearing me say something, and she was mimicking.  How could she know that she should not say something that her parents are saying?  I was the problem.  I can pinpoint the spot in my kitchen when I heard myself and winced.

Since that day my attitude has changed.  I remind myself that I am not stupid, but more important is that I have changed the way I think about both myself and others.  Some jerk on the road driving up the median in traffic?  Maybe they are on their way to the hospital to see someone important.  Slow wait staff (not THIS slow!)?  Kitchen is busy and everyone is probably covering.  I have always been positive, but I am actively looking for the good behind the perceived bad.  I give the benefit of the doubt to anyone I do not know, and do my best to ignore initial appearance.  Clearly I need to work at that - the eyes are powerful - but it has begun for me.

I think that this attitude is showing in Abby now, and that is my whole goal.  She has not called anyone a name in my presence since the day that it clicked for me.  She is faster to say "please" "thank you" and "how are you" to people she knows and people she meets.

Parents - it's all about modeling.  A positive attitude in you will be reflected by the ones you are raising.  Practice this and see what a difference it might make in your house!


  1. So true Rob! There have been times when something less than desirable has come out of Mia's mouth and I'll ask her, "where did you hear that".....usually it is school or TV, or a neighborhood friend. However, the day she really got me was when she said, "YOU". It really forces you to think about what kind of model you are and what you want to be!

  2. Wise words! It's easy to blame school, but it's often us.

    We were driving once, and I had to brake suddenly. BJ was in the car, so I was proud of myself for not saying anything, when from the back seat we heard our then-one-and-a-half-year-old say "Shit!"

    This told BJ that 1) my driving is so bad that 2) I have to brake suddenly often and 3) I swear when I do it enough that 4) the baby has started saying it too, probably to her teachers and grandparents and babysitters.



  3. I think the ability to self-reflect makes you a great parent. I'm going to add my thoughts from today here even though they are only tangentially related. When Chase repeats 'frick' it doesn't sound any better than the real thing. I have to believe that people are good or I'd be too afraid to live in the city. Also, I came home from errands today so thankful for all the service industry people who bent over backwards to help me today. At costco, the bank and panera. It really was remarkable.

  4. We talk about not wanting to control our children but instead teaching them self control... How often do we stop to think about controlling our own behavior first?

    Nice post.

  5. Oh man, I totally hear things coming out of my kids' mouth that come out of ours. Most frequently, my 4 year old says, "Auuuughhhh!" when she gets frustrated.

    And then, "Momma? What's an idiot?"