THERE is no rule book when it comes to parenting.
We say things to our kids that come naturally. And often we say things that our own parents said to us. But unfortunately research has indicated that some of these simple sayings can have negative long-term effects.
Innocent sayings like “naughty boy” or “don’t be stupid” can be bad for a child’s self esteem because it teaches them to label themselves, explains Gregg Chapman, Psychologist and Clinical Manager at Strategic Psychology. He further adds that this may lead to a child developing poor self-concept.
Now you might be thinking, ‘But my parents said this to me and I turned out fine.” But as Dympna Kennedy, founder of Creating Balance, a parenting organization that encourages parents to connect more closely with their children, points out: research and knowledge has come a long way in recent decades.
“It’s not about looking back and thinking my parents did the wrong thing by me,” says Dympna. “It’s about looking back and saying, ‘OK, they did the best they could with what knowledge they had at that time. But I now have the advantage of research and knowledge that they didn’t have.’”
And that research and knowledge says we should stop saying these things to our children.
- “You naughty boy/girl!”
Instead address the situation. Gregg Chapman suggests a better statement might be: “Was what you did helping or hurting? If it was hurting let’s see how we could turn that around”
- “How many times have I told you?”
Clearly your current approach isn’t very effective. Plus, do you really expect your child to answer this question? Gregg suggests saying something like: “I’m upset that I’m not getting my message across to you. How do you think that you could make better choices that don’t hurt you and/or others?”
- “How could you do this to me? After all I do for you!”
Gregg explains that the child is not doing things out of a sense of obligation to the parent. They are acting to meet their needs and get what they want. He suggests not focusing on oneself, as parent but instead helping the child understand the impact of their actions on others.
- “You wait until you get home!”
As a parent you want to build a close relationship with your child but, according to Gregg, threats generate fear and insecurity and certainly don’t strengthen the parent-child relationship. Gregg says a better statement might be: “We will need to discuss this at home. I’d like you to think what you could do to put this right”
- “Don’t be Stupid.”
Once again, children will label themselves as they have been taught. And negative labels such as ‘stupid’ do not foster a happy, healthy relationship with themselves.
- “You make mummy very happy when you eat all your dinner.”
Dympna Kennedy says it is important not to teach children to do things for external praise. This teaches them to be people pleasers, which may lead to them doing things they may not want to do during their school years just to be accepted. Dympna suggests just saying “thank you” when a child does something you want them to do, or encourage internal self-praise and say “you should be proud of yourself for eating all your dinner.”
But it goes without saying, sometimes in the heat of the moment a situation might get the better of you and what you say isn’t the best choice of words. And that’s OK because it is impossible to be a perfect parent all of the time.
“It is not about being the perfect parent because children don’t learn from a parent who is perfect,” explains Dympna.
“They learn from a parent who makes mistakes because that shows your child it’s not about being perfect but it’s about reflecting and learning and trying again the next.”
So the next time you go to say one of these sayings to your child, stop, reflect and try to speak to them in a way that will encourage them to become resilient, compassionate and confident.
Source: Nicole Thomson-Pride