‘Mmm huh’

How NOT to get your kids to speak properly

It’s fascinating to see how children serve as reflections of our own actions—not our words. While we ever live in hope of our kids doing what we actually tell them to do, they inevitably gravitate to doing what we do. Which sucks. Imagine how much better the world would be if our kids lived out our idealised version of behaviour instead of just copying our own failed attempts at doing what we say they ought to do.

In the last few weeks Eloise, my five-year-old daughter, has started saying, ‘Mmm huh’, all the time. (It’s the lazy mans, ‘Yes’, in case you’re wondering.) At first I was very quick to correct her. ‘Say, “Yes”, please, Eloise’, I told her repeatedly. She occasionally obliged, but more often then not, I’d soon be frustrated again as I heard another, ‘Mmm huh’, slip idly from her lips.

But then I made an alarming discovery. I suddenly noticed how often both my wife, Rachel, and I say, ‘Mmm huh’, instead of saying, ‘Yes’. Who knew? I’d never noticed this before. Suddenly though, out of nowhere, I couldn’t stop hearing just how often both of us would say—or should I say, mumble—‘Mmm huh’, instead of saying clear, enunciated yeses. It was more than a little disturbing. More to the point, how on earth can we expect Eloise to avoid lazy speech if we model it to her so much?

Much as they make us uncomfortable, it is good to have these kiddy mirror moments, as I call them. We might not always like what we see but, as with any physical mirror, they reflect the reality, no matter how disconcerting that reality might be. As in life, it’s tempting at times to avoid the mirror, but unless we accept the reality, there’s no way of changing it.

In the Radford household, the reality is that, if we want Eloise to stop saying, ‘Mmm huh’, we’re going to have to lead by example. (The truth is that we’re always leading by example; the question is whether it’s a good one or not.) We have to choose to model the way we want our kids to behave, not just tell them to behave in a way that we don’t even manage to do ourselves.

If only it’s easy as that sounds!

Is my 487th attempt at journalling finally going to be a success?

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