December 07, 2008

'And' Instead of 'But'

In a recent parenting group we had a conversation around the use of the word ‘and’ as opposed to the word ‘but' in certain situations. For example, “You really want my attention right now. And, I am already in a conversation. You can hold my hand and wait quietly until I am finished.” Or “I can see that you don’t like my decision. And right now it is time to get ready to leave. Do you want to put your shoes on here or in the car?”

After the group I was thinking that by using the word ‘and’, we are acknowledging the reality that there are 2 experiences being had. The child is having their experience and the adult is having their experience. Using the word ‘and’ allows us to say that we acknowledge and accept both realities. And… as the adult… we might have to set a limit or be in charge of the direction that is happening next. We are doing this, however, by accepting the reality that the child is feeling something different. If we use the word ‘but’ then we are saying, “I know you feel that way. But this is the real truth.” “You really want my attention right now. But I am already in a conversation. You can wait.” You want my attention, but that isn’t important. All that is important is that I am already talking and you can wait.

This subtle nuance is a way to practice kindness and firmness at the same time. We can be firm by stating and sticking to a limit. We can be kind in our tone of voice, a non-judgmental attitude, and by acknowledging the child’s reality and saying ‘Yes’ to what they’re feeling or experiencing even if we have to say ‘No’ to a behavior.

I'd love to hear other thoughts about this topic.

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