Parenting is unquestionably hard. Sometimes parents say things without realizing what they are saying could have seriously negative consequences on their children. Recently, several experts spoke to HuffPost, sharing harmful phrases that parents may not be aware of. The experts also offer what to say instead.
1. “It’s not a big deal”
Although sometimes children of all ages meltdown over the smallest of things, saying, “it’s not a big deal,” diminishes their feelings about the situation.
“These little problems — and the emotions that come with them — are actually huge to our kids,” said Amy McCready, a parenting educator, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time. “When we discount their emotional responses to very real challenges, we tell them, ‘How you feel doesn’t matter,’ or ‘It’s silly to be afraid or disappointed.’”
Try this instead: First, try to understand things from their point of view. And then, McCready recommended saying something like: “You seem really scared or frustrated or disappointed right now. Should we talk about it and figure out what to do?”
2. “You never” or “You always do XYZ”
According to the expert Robbin McManne, founder of Parenting for Connection, using these blanket statements is a big red flag. You are signaling to your child tha tyou are no longer focused on what’s happening in that particular moment.
“It misses opportunity for you to teach them what they should and what they can do next time.”
Try this instead: Remind yourself that children have patterns and “never” and “always” are absolute, not allowing for whatever is going on in the moment. Avoid words that are absolute and don’t give you flexibility.
3. “You should know better”
This one is a big no no. When you say “you should know better,” you are ultimately attempting to guilt your child into changing. Saying things like this put your child on the defensive, and things will go downhill from there.
Additionally, McCready also says that saying things like this undermines your child’s confidence. “If we tell our kids they should know better — yet clearly they didn’t — we’re sending the message, ‘You’re too dumb/immature to make a good decision.’ Not exactly what we intended.”
Try this instead: Focus on the situation and not the problem. Give your child an opportunity to practice those problem-solving skills. Guide them as they fix their mistakes and brainstorm ideas of how they can make better choices.
4. “Just let me do it”
Many parents are very guilty of saying this one. When what you think is a simple task that should be done quickly isn’t getting done as fast as you would like, your instinct is to takeover and do it yourself. But try to avoid doing it and saying it because this sends a very negative message to your child.
“You’re telling your child, ‘You’re not capable of this, so I need to get involved.’ This is both discouraging and really frustrating,” McCready said. “Imagine if you were super close to being able to do your own zipper and just needed a few more tries, but then Dad swoops in and stops you in your tracks.”
Try this instead: Give your child time to complete the task or if you are in a rush, say to them, “I’ll help you this time because we are in a hurry, but we need to work on this together later.” Remember, children love to feel a sense of accomplishment as we all do!
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