5 Things You Should Never Tell Your Child. I think most of us already know how important it is to hold our tongue with our little people. It really only takes a dip or two into our own childhoods to remember that hard words from parents–the center of our worlds and the source of our identity–to know that words can scar. And they can hurt. And they can linger. I consulted with some of the most clever parent/child therapists today to get some ideas.
5 Things You Should Never Tell Your Child
1. Lies: If you’re reminding them to “always tell the truth!” it’s not helping when they see you tell lies. To them: “oh, the dentist office isn’t going to hurt.” And you KNOW the dentist is going after that kid’s molar like an Alaskan oil driller with a fresh gusher. Or, to someone else: “oh, I couldn’t make it because Stevie’s sick,” and a perfectly healthy Stevie is standing in front of you.
2. Anything they shouldn’t say in public: I am the WORST when it comes to language. While I’m lucky enough to work in a communication field where the spoken word is treasured, I’ve always worked with primarily men. I’ve picked up language that would make a sailor blush. Which sounds even worse coming out of the mouth of my 2 year old. But it’s not just cursing. Say, “Carlene is such a gossip!” and you’ll be hearing it back at church next week.
3. Labeling or categorizing them: “MacLean is just so stubborn!” I’d said it on the phone to my Mom–and actually as a compliment–because it meant he’d mastered skiing even though it drove him crazy. But I still heard it back from him–as a negative. Being the “loud one,” “crazy one,” or the “spoiled one,” are all labels that can carry into adulthood.
4. Placing blame: I still remember the first time I snapped at The Todd–we’d never exchanged a cross word (I’m NOT kidding) until we had the twins. I was exhausted and cranky, and I was mean. It was terrible. But at least The Todd is an adult and can exact his revenge at some later date (and he does, of course.) But a child can’t do that. And being exhausted, cranky, frustrated and everything else that comes from being a parent makes it easy to snap “this house would be clean if it weren’t for your messes!” Little kids take on more blame than we know: ask any child from a divorced family that’s certain it’s his fault.
5. “Not Good Enough”: I interviewed Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother” who once ripped up a birthday card made by her five year old because “it wasn’t her best work.” Slacking on our kids and telling them that everything they do is JUST perfect is a lie. But making them think they’re never going to be “good enough” feels even worse. Failing and sloppiness are part of growing up. They’re meant as learning tools to improve, not elements of shame.
There’s some great books on communication between parents and children that can really help, take a look: