I may seem to be a little hypersensitive to language, but it’s with good reason. Language is important and impacts our feelings, values, trust, self-worth and so much more. I really like the pediatric dental practice we go to and believe that they do an excellent job and provide wonderful care. However, when the dental hygienist responds to my question, “how long do you anticipate the procedure will take” with: “it should be about 15 to 20 minutes if she is good, but could be 40 minutes or more if she’s not.” That gets me all fired up.
Rather than freak and let on that I’m my emotions are stirring and there is a rapid fire response ready to roll off my tongue at warp speed with a stern tone, I calmly say, “oh, ok. So if she is able to cooperate and remain somewhat calm with hands and tools in her mouth, and the piece is a good fit, then it will be about 20 minutes. But if she gets nervous or scared or if the fit is a challenge it could take a bit longer?” She looked at me very puzzled and said, “Um, yes. That’s right.” My daughter watching us the whole time and smiling. She’s used to this sort of exchange. I felt that confirming what I heard the hygienist say in a way that reshaped her response to remove the statement about my daughter being good versus bad, was the best way to handle the situation.
According to.my husband, I am like the language police. I’m OK with that, because I believe there is power in language and how we speak to our children and about our children shapes how they speak to others and how they feel about themselves.
If she is “good” or ” bad” (as they say) in the dentist’s chair, that does not mean that she is a good or bad person. Her reaction to a procedure is a behavior, so please, let’s talk about the behavior and response, not the person. When trained medical professionals say things like, “you are being a good girl” to my child, or any child for that matter, it makes my skin crawl. I will continue to repeat their comment whenever possible with, ” You are doing a good job.”
Yes. A conversation or email at another time will likely follow. So, maybe I will be labeled the annoying mom or parent with insane expectations. So be it. This mom who might be annoying to some…or many, is doing her very best to raise a compassionate, confident and empowered young woman. If we confuse or offend some people in the process, well, that’s ok. If we educate a few people along the way, excellent. And if they climb aboard our train of teaching from an early age about the importance of creating a #consentculture with a focus on appropriate language then ,well then, all aboard and choo choo!
PS How was your morning?