Stop Encouraging Subjectivity
Alright, I know I’m probably about to ruffle some feathers here, but I just had a pretty common parenting situation that I realized had far more significant repercussions than the isolated incident. It hit me so hard that I literally stopped my morning routine to collect my thoughts about it. Here’s the gist of what happened.
My husband recently returned home from his annual Navy training in California, and he brought all of the kids t-shirts as souvenirs. One of them had a picture of a bear next to a surf board. My second child said excitedly that he liked the dog on the shirt, at which point my oldest child pointed out that it was a bear. Naturally, the dispute came to me. I acknowledged that it was, in fact, a bear, and I even explained the connection of the bear to the California state flag, etc., etc.
My son broke down into tears. He wanted it to be a dog so badly that he told himself, “Well, I’ll just say it’s a dog.”
This was a critical juncture for me. I could have just allowed him to convince himself of this subjective “truth” and avoid what would’ve become a greater meltdown. It’s tempting and easier to do so.
Here’s another common scenario: you want your kid to try a new food, but you know she won’t try it if she knows what it really is. Want her to try that different-looking food? Call it chicken. Except it ISN’T chicken. Try it anyway. If you don’t like it, fine, but I’m not going to convince you that the world is a subjective place relative to what pleases you. It isn’t.
I see this as a larger societal issue where people often ignore hard facts in favor of more comfortable subjective opinions – I refuse to call them “facts” or “truths.” They aren’t. And I have to think that there’s some correlation. Vaccines do NOT cause Autism. The world is NOT flat. It IS warming up. I could go on and on …
These objective truths may make us very uncomfortable. We may want to throw a fit and even break down into tears. Like my son, we may insist in spite of evidence and reality that things are actually how we want to see them and walk merrily away from the truth. Facts may be very difficult to accept, but oh well. That’s life.
I could have turned to my oldest child and said quietly, “It’s fine. Let him think it’s a dog. He’s not hurting anything.” Except what am I encouraging? What am I modeling to either of them? As long as you throw a fit, things are the way you see them in spite of facts? I don’t think so.
So what did I tell my defiant son? “No, it’s a bear. And if you’re going to keep crying about something so silly, don’t wear the shirt, or go to time-out.” He wore the shirt, satisfied that the bear was not a dog. Because facts are facts. Get over it.