Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Four Things Parents Say to Their Children (but Shouldn’t)

By Katie Bugbee

The easiest thing about having kids: loving them. The morning hugs. The bedtime cuddles and everything in between. It’s incredible how quickly these little ones own your heart.

The hardest thing: disciplining them. It’s painful. Can’t we just talk this out? Can’t you just promise NEVER to do it again -- and mean it this time?

But part of creating a supportive structure is by creating boundaries. And the “Time Out Chair” is only part of this discipline. Using the right words counts just as much.

Here are 4 phrases we -- as normal parents -- say all the time, but shouldn’t.

1. “I’m Warning You”: How many warnings can you give before actually punishing your child? Unfortunately, the answer is one. They’re testing you and you know it. But for some reason it’s not the right time or place to create a screaming fit. It never is. But kids need this discipline structure. They need to see you act on your first warning. Otherwise, they’ll lose confidence in you. If you have a kid who loves to act out (my daughter as a two-year-old is a perfect example), the more you warn, the more she’ll test you.

2. “C’mon, Cheer Up!”: Seems harmless, right? Unfortunately, no. When your child is sad or discouraged, you really want to validate their feelings. Shrugging their feelings off, or asking them to fake happiness, is just teaching your child that his feelings aren’t important. Or worse, letting him bottle it inside (and believe me, it will eventually come out another time!).

Create an environment -- perhaps the dinner table -- where you all talk about your feelings. Share your own work woes and how you’re handling them, and encourage your kids to talk about the good and tough parts of their days. If one child is going through a particularly rough time, find more one-on-one times to talk. Kids often feel most comfortable talking when not looking right at you, so go bowling, shoot hoops or take a long drive or hike. But don’t feel like you need to solve his problems. Often, all a child needs is to feel heard and understood.

3. “Because I Said So”: This has to be the worst phrase ever. But how many of us have caught ourselves saying it?! Sometimes, it just works. But in the long run, it doesn’t teach your child anything. Why no more video games? Why can’t she have a sleepover on a Tuesday? Why can’t he wear his favorite shirt two days in a row? Sometimes (okay, often) your logic won’t resonate with your child. But she still heard you. And you know what? You might just hear her using this same reasoning a few weeks later. As exhausting as it can sometimes be, everything is a teachable moment.

4. “You Should’ve Known Better”: This only makes a child feel, well ... dumb. This kind of statement might slip out of your mouth because you WISH they’d known better. But they just didn’t. Maybe they need to be punished. Or maybe their disappointment will prevent a mistake like this again.

For example, imagine that your son flooded a friend’s bathroom while being silly with his friends (this may or may not have happened to me!). Take him and sternly explain that it is against the rules to make a mess like this. He needs to clean it up, apologize, and use his own money to buy the family a gift to apologize.

Clearly he didn’t know better. Or, he thought he could get away with something. Either way, you are making him responsible for his actions and teaching him that he always will be.

You have the most important job in the whole world (no pressure!). And as parents, we have the additional mental tug-of-war of “coddling too much” versus “being too harsh.” But a balance is good. The overall goal is to create a loving environment where you can also be stern. But it’s a feeling that your kids know they can come to you with any concern. Even if it means they have to clean up a friend’s bathroom!

Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect nanny

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm...I am probably guilty of saying one or another of these things myself....scary...but thanks for the post to remind us.
    Ann B.
    ababe28 at hotmail dot com

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