Being a parent isn’t easy – it’s not as if you are handed an instruction manual on how to bring up your kids (although there are plenty of people releasing books claiming to do just that). Instead, most parents muddle through things – taking their cues from their own childhood and adapting what they didn’t like or agree with while keeping the best parts for their own parenting. However, there are a few common things that we say to our kids but perhaps shouldn’t. These are everyday phrases – perhaps borne out of frustration – but what are they actually telling our kids about you and themselves?
1. You’re Driving Me Crazy At The Moment!
You probably say this (or something similar to it) several times a day! In fact, the kids may be driving you nuts, but you should be careful how you say this to them. Expressing your anger or lack of control shows your children that they are responsible for your feelings and behavior, which can lead to them feeling guilty of blaming themselves. It is much better to say something like, ‘I’m having a tough time being calm and patient today, so I am going to take a moment to calm down, OK?” Instead of ignoring the problem or blaming your kids, this accepts the situation, explains it, and offers a solution. It is a much healthier response – so long as you are true to your word, and actually take a moment to gather yourself!
2. Because I Told You To!
While this sentence can pop out from your mouth when you are fed up of explaining something or being questioned on your authority, it is a dangerous phrase to utter. In fact, what you are doing is teaching your kids a blind acceptance of authority. Where your kids are better off understanding why certain rules exist, you are not offering them the chance to see that. Children are curious to learn – and that includes learning right from wrong. They may not agree with you but at least they should be allowed to understand your reasoning. Just giving orders without explanation prevents this.
3. Stop Crying
Whether you tell your kids to stop crying or, even worse, that you will ‘give them something to cry about’ – this sort of talk is the complete reverse of what you should be doing. Crying is a normal way to express negative emotions and is much healthier than bottling things up. Being told to stop crying won’t make someone feel better, but will just instill a sense of fear or panic instead of reassurance and support. You should try to comfort your children rather than teaching them to shut down their emotions. This is, sadly, a particular problem for boys.
4. That’s Just How It Is
Whether you tell your kids that things sometimes just aren’t fair, or simply say ‘that’s life’ when something doesn’t work out, what are you actually saying? You are teaching your kids to just accept that unfairness is a part of life and that we have to just accept it. This may actually be the case, but surely it is better to teach your children more than to shrug their shoulders and accept their lot? If you can teach your children how to find a solution they will feel empowered rather than powerless. Of course, a solution is not always possible in which case you can try to offer a more supportive version of ‘that’s just how it is.’ Maybe you can reassure them that a bad time will pass and everything will be OK in time. If you are religious you could try the prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” There is a difference between blind acceptance and knowing acceptance.
5. “Don’t Be So Sensitive / Soft, etc.”
Telling your kids that their emotions are wrong can be damaging. It teaches them that emotions are a sign of weakness and can damage how they see the emotions of others too. This will lessen their ability to empathize while also leading your children to start hiding their own emotions. It is better to teach your children how to handle their emotions and process them properly. Sure, there will be times when your kids will get overly upset over something that seems ridiculous, but teaching them to cope with this is better than telling them to ignore it.
When it comes to being a good parent, remember how your childhood was and try to improve on the best parts while discarding and learning from the bad. Nobody’s perfect, and we all make mistakes, but try to learn from them and remember that your kids will look to you for guidance – whether you are right or wrong.
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