Raising Strong and Healthy Children: What Not to Say
If you're like me, you like to read a lot about raising children. Although I do not have children of my own, I hope to have them one day. Also, I love working with children, and the responsibility that parents entrust us with, of helping their children to grow physically and mentally, is one that we take very seriously.
One thing that used to scare me is these articles on what NOT to say to kids. Articles like, "10 Things You Should Never Say to Children." The reason these articles scared me was that, as I read the title, I thought, "Oh boy, how many of these have I said before?" There were times when I felt like I didn't want to say ANYTHING, because there were so many things that we, as parents and teachers aren't supposed to say.
However, once I accept the reality that I am probably saying some things I shouldn't be saying, I am able to get some great info from such articles, and to discontinue using certain phrases that do not help our children. Some seem obvious, some maybe less so.
Many, perhaps most, of the things that the experts tell us not to say to children, are statements that we are likely to make out of anger, frustration, stress, etc. Sweeping generalizations such as "You ALWAYS lie!" or "You NEVER focus!" are damaging to a child's self-esteem and help to reinforce the exact behavior that we are complaining about. They give the children a label that they are likely to see themselves as, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Another statement that I read about, which surprised me, is the ol' "Practice makes perfect!" Apparently this sends a different message than what is intended. I found the following on parenting.com:
""It sends the message that if you make mistakes, you didn't train hard enough," says Joel Fish, Ph.D., author of 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent. "I've seen kids beat themselves up, wondering, 'What's wrong with me? I practice, practice, practice, and I'm still not the best.'" Instead, encourage your child to work hard because he'll improve and feel proud of his progress."
So, it seems like a better statement might be, "If you practice, you can improve."
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I would encourage you to read more articles on this subject; they are very easy to find online. Just don't be afraid to learn bad news, and don't beat yourself up if you have been using some of the phrases that experts tell you not to use. The odds are that we all have, as they are quite natural.
Once we are aware of the harm that some statements cause, it is relatively easy to stop using some of them. Eliminating those that we say out of anger and frustration require much more self-control. One tip I have found in working with children, especially the younger ones, is to really try to have fun with them. You really have to be able to laugh at anything. Don't expect perfection. Appreciate the differences in the way that their minds work.