We all realize that sometimes we say things to our kids that they just don’t like. But how do we know which words bother them the most? Linda Morgan, editor of ParentMap and author of the book, Beyond Smart, has more about the kinds of comments we should avoid.
IT SEEMS LIKE EVERY GENERATION SAYS THINGS THAT DRIVE THEIR KIDS CRAZY. WHY?
We remember them well – wait till your father gets home. Because I said so. We vowed never to do that. But here we are – coming up with some of the same ones, and some of our own. It’s like any thing else with parenting – we tend to repeat the same patterns we saw in our own homes. Even when we know it might not be the best idea.
WHY DO WE WANT TO STAY AWAY FROM WORDS AND COMMENTS THAT CAN SET OUR KIDS OFF?
Because we want to do everything we can to enhance and improve our communication with our kids. That means keeping all avenues open – not saying things that we’re pretty sure will close those doors. Often, these kinds of comments come out when we’re rushed, stressed, busy doing something else. And when kids hear things as criticism, they hear it as a negative. We want to add positives.
WHAT ARE SOME PHRASES WE SHOULD STAY AWAY FROM?
- “Do your best” -- To young kids, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. At this age, most children really aren’t trying to achieve a personal best. When 3- or 4-year-olds play soccer or do ballet, they are simply there to have fun and try something new. It puts pressure on them. Instead, we can say, “Go out there and have fun!”
- “Can’t you learn to take a joke?” -- What seems like lighthearted teasing can bring their daughter to tears. And jokes are complex. And be honest – were you really just kidding?
- “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” -- That’s comparing – and is never good.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS WE CAN IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH OUR KIDS?
- Think before we speak - An offhand comment in a moment of stress might send a different message to our kids than we intend. Set aside regular times to talk – at dinner time, before bed, while taking your kids to activities in the car. Keep the smart phone off.
- Ask questions - That often works better than constantly dispensing advice or giving feedback. Just listening can really work well – and we can’t say the wrong thing when we’re not doing the talking.
- Be connected - It’s all about being touch with who your kids are – know their temperament and how your words will affect them. Communicate with empathy - and make sure they know you care about how they feel.
- Admit mistakes - We can’t be reflective in everything we say to our kids. There are times when we’re on autopilot, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when there’s a misfire. What’s most important is that we acknowledge our mistake. An apology goes a long way.