There are so many articles “(Insert Number Here) Things Not To Say To Your Kids“ doing the rounds that tell you how to talk to your children. And I find it amusing to say the least.
I have a hard enough time keeping track of all the things to do in my day and everything the family needs. Telling me to reword myself in every parenting situation is an unrealistic goal.
We are all human. And the best part of being human is having emotions. Check out any robot movie! Being emotional makes us vulnerable to our surroundings. So guess what? When my child has to be told for the 10th time to wear his shoes as we are getting late for a class I am paying 30+ dollars for or my toddler keeps using the words " Oh my Gosh. Look at her butt! "(from the movie Sing) in spite of being told not to over and over again, I will scold them. When my son is rude to me, I will give him a time out. When my daughter lies down on the floor screaming about candy after we have been out all day doing chores, I will come home and vent to my husband, passionately (and loudly).
Mind you, in no way am I condoning being sarcastic or humiliating you child. I am talking about those times that people say the right thing in a misplaced tone or words that slip out in exasperation! Yells that arise from spilled milk after you getting ready for guests or screams of caution when your child is doing something dangerous. Forgive yourself those.
Today the culture is so self serving and peer affected. It is our responsibility to ensure children learn to differentiate right from wrong. To do the right thing when it needs doing. To do chores. To study hard. To be kind, gentle, responsible people who know how to respect every thing and being.
I have yet to meet a person who does something without prompting. And after multiple prompts it is natural to end up irritated. By using different strategies, I try to find the one way that will convince them of what needs doing. Every day is a constant battle with children. From brushing you teeth to the second they close their eyes, there is sly tact, persistent prompts, exasperated yelling involved. On rare occasions the method/wording is uncalled for. And I apologize. But that too teaches my children that reacting wrongly is natural. It is acceptable to make mistakes as long as you are willing to course correct.
Kids should know there are consequences to their actions. That it is okay to vent. They should understand that just because someone yells or says something that they don't like doesn't mean that person hates them. Often the person is just tired of not being heard. Youngsters today need to know how to process emotions. Words are only as important as the intention behind them.
I was reading Martin Luther King Jr's biography last week and was surprised that his father, a pastor no less whipped him mercilessly when he made mistakes. Yet more than the whipping MLK feared disappointing his father. He never lost sight of the fact that even though the consequences were severe, his father loved him and only meant to guide him.
When I was a child, I feared my mother's eyes. When acting out, I could sense her across the room holding me in that particular stare that said, "I know what you did and you are going to get an earful when we go home!" Those eyes kept me grounded. I don't remember the yelling. I do however remember the important life lessons that came with.
Now imagine a world where everyone was always nice to their kids. Where you were mild mannered whether your child was right or wrong. Where you clapped for them even when they failed. Where you were always smiling and hugging them. That would lead to a world where children would not have the capability of processing negative emotions. They wouldn't have a sense of achievement. They would never have learned how to handle failure. When someone disagreed with them, they would be at a loss as to the right way to respond. In a world of bullies born of weaknesses, they need to understand that sometimes people act out when they are actually hurting inside.
The pressure of being "right" all the time will eventually get to you. Notice when your child is behaving badly in public and you have tried everything positive that isn't working. The child needs a time out or telling to but you need to go to the car/home first. Think about how suffocated you feel during that time. How upset! Now imagine if you went months feeling like that. Eventually all those emotions will catch up and you will definitely implode! Is that what you want to instill in your child?
I will give you, the “what not to say” lists thoughtfully made are useful in making us ponder about how words can be perceived. In sensitive situations that is a must! Words can hurt, yes! But we need to remember that the intention behind sentences uttered is more important that the words themselves. We need to focus on our history with the person uttering them. We need to remember people make mistakes. Acknowledge that and process it. Discuss it with the person in question if it truly matters. Then move on. If we all start focusing on what is said to us and ignore actions that truly speak their own language, we will lose sight of the good in humanity.
My mother often told me a famous Indian story of a thief who grew up with a mother who pampered and praised him no matter what. When he finally got arrested, his mom went to visit him. He called her close to him and bit her ear off saying, “ You are my mother. It was your job to twist my ear and tell me when I was doing wrong. “
It is not a parent's job to be nice to their children. It is to love them. It is to guide them in every which way with the intention that they grow up to be mature human beings ready to lead the next generation.