“Harriet’s Had Enough!” by Elissa Haden Guest


This month I am focusing on the communication between parents and children. I view it as an open dialogue, that includes verbalizing feelings and is based on partnerships.  Last but not least, it’s a dialogue that is intimate and confidential. It sounds like promoting some kind of conspiracy , right? Well, I see it more as discretion. If we want our children to open up to us, we need to assure them that whatever they share, won’t be spread around to their embarrassment or disadvantage. I haven’t found a picture book on discretion to prove my point, but let me illustrate it with a real life example.

Last week we had a tough conversation with my son about an incident in the park. He accidentally bumped into a child while going down the slide and somehow, he made a big deal out of saying “I’m sorry”. The whole thing escalated out of  proportions as I was trying to make him apologize and find out the reasons of this odd behavior. He finally said “I’m sorry” but not without tears. I found the whole thing quite baffling and we had a talk. As it turned out, my son was intimidated by the child’s dad, who gave him a talking to before I could react. He promised to be more careful in the future, but he also asked me “not to mention anything to dad”. I found that even more surprising than the whole park affaire, considering my son’s young age. I am not sure he knows what discretion means, but he certainly asked me for it. I chose to respect that. 

As much as I  was upset about the whole incident, but I also was happy to see that my theory and practice meet. Children will talk with us, but they need to trust us.

And as far as the book. It is not so much about confidentiality, but certainly about a mature, effective and open dialogue between parents and children. Besides, it also touches upon our last month’s topic: the role of chores in raising a responsible individual.

Harriet threw a fit when she was asked to clean up her toys.  She packed her suitcase and decided to leave. On her way out, she got to share her grudges against the “mean” mom who makes her do chores with dad and grandma ( who ironically were busy with their chores).  Then it was the mom who wanted to talk to Harriet.   She didn’t try to dissuade her from leaving and she didn’t wait for an apology. She opened up first and expressed her own feelings about the fight.  To cut a long story short, Harriet not only made up with her mom, chose to stay, but also learned  a thing or two about the importance of chores. 

What I find interesting in this story is how seriously the grown-ups took Harriet’s decision. They didn’t try to dissuade her from leaving or force her to stay. The choice was up to her. Secondly, they didn’t form a team against the little rebel. Thirdly, let’s look at Harriet’s conversation with mom. It was the parent who reached out first and initiated the talk, even though it was Harriet who owed her mom an apology. Not every parent can do that.

A great little book about big parenting issues: responsibilities, our last month’s theme, and the current topic, a parent-child dialogue.

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