As parents we go out of our way to give our children a childhood that is positive, uplifting, confidence-building and empowering. But are we unknowingly saying things that discourage instead of encouraging, deter instead of supporting, dampen their spirits instead of uplifting them? Here is a list of 7 things best left unsaid:
'Here, I'll do it' or 'Let me do it for you':
We all know the story of the man who decided to help a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to emerge from that cocoon were essential for strengthening its wings and equipping it to fly.
Let's not make the same mistake. If we see our child struggling to tie her shoe laces or mastering the skill of brushing her teeth, give her time. Wait for her to ask for your assistance (or reach the last straw of patience and frustration), before we sweep in to save the day.
By jumping in too soon, we only rob her of the chance of learning to do it all by herself and undermine her confidence. Instead when she does ask for your help, say, 'Let's do it together!'
'Great Job!' or 'Good Girl!'
This innocuous sounding compliment in fact does more harm than good. When used sparingly, it does wonders to boost a child's self esteem. But when it is dished out at every turn, it erodes a child's sense of self worth. They feel worthy if and only when they receive a compliment. According to a host of psychologists, it encourages children to value the compliment itself more than the satisfaction of a job well done.
It also creates a false sense of security in children, curtailing their ambition to explore further, look for the second right answer, think harder, or try one more time. They feel contented to have earned your appreciation and so abort their effort to go any further.
So the next time your child does something well, say, 'Wow, you were really meticulous in cleaning your room today!' Or 'It is amazing how single-minded you were in practice today!'
Simply remember to focus on the effort your child has put in rather than the result.
'You are so smart!'
It feels great to receive this compliment - be it a child or an adult. But beware, children who perceive themselves as smart get in the habit of relying on their smartness rather than sincere effort to sail through situations. It also evokes a sense of fear in trying new things - what if I don't fare well and my image of being smart takes a beating.
Instead try saying, 'What a creative solution you came up with to that problem!' Or 'You kept trying until you got it right. That's great!' That way you bring the focus back to learning and exploring, instead of holding a tenuous title.
Kids may forget what they had for lunch today, but promise them that you will take them to the Zoo this Saturday and Voila! Zoo is their first word on Saturday. Kids take everything on its face value. Therefore it is extra important to keep our promises to them. It disappoints a child and makes them feel unimportant when a promise is broken. Rise to the occasion and keep your promises, but if you are not a hundred percent sure about something, say, 'I'll try!' instead of the loaded, “l promise!'
'If you _____ then I’ll give you _____”
'If you wash your hands then I'll give a chocolate!' or 'If you finish your soup, then we'll go for ice cream!' This style of parenting is a strict no-no. It conditions the child to carry out a task only if there will be a reward later. It encourages a selfish state of mind and actions.
Instead of simply giving an order to the child and bribing them to carry it out, try explaining why that task needs to be done. For example, instead of saying, 'Go, wash your hands!” choose to say 'Let's wash your hands so that all the dirt and germs go away!' If children understand the 'why' of things, they will definitely comprehend and implement the 'how'.
We love it when our kids laugh. But when they cry, we are overwhelmed with the desire to shield them from the pain.
Crying and laughing are two ends of a spectrum of emotions. And children oscillate between them as often as we blink our eyes. It is natural for us as parents to want to protect them from feeling this way. But by saying the words, 'Don't cry' we are sending the wrong message to our child that crying is bad.
Instead try acknowledging their sadness, or pain with the words, 'You really enjoyed playing with your friend, isn't it. And now it makes you sad that she has to go home for dinner. Why don't we also finish dinner and then two of us can play. Let's see who's the Snakes n Ladders champ today!'
You are racing against time and your kid is singing her favorite rhyme, sitting on her Peppa Pig potty seat while leisurely brushing her teeth? As strong as the urge to say, 'Hurry up!' may be, avoid using those words. They will unnecessarily add stress to your morning routine.
Instead try saying, 'Let's hurry' to send her the message that you two are on the same team. Or something on the lines of 'Let's see who gets ready first' is bound to render more positive results than the desperate 'Hurry up!'
Parenting is a wonderful opportunity to nurture and cherish another being and see them grow and realize their full potential. But it needs patience, compassion and an unending supply of kind words.
Also read: 4 Ways of Dealing with Separation Anxiety
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