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Friday, May 6, 2011

Six Things You Should Never Say To Your Kids

This is a very useful article that I found on the web.

Almost every parent has gotten mad and said things to their kids they wish they could take back. The trick is to figure out how to remain in control so you don't end up saying something you'll regret. Though this is easier said than done, trust me, it is possible-and it's a skill you can learn, just like anything else.

On the Parental Support Line, we hear from people all the time after they?ve had arguments with their kids. They call us to get perspective and to find out ways they can manage their children's behavior-and their own responses-more effectively. Here are some examples of the types of phrases I believe you should avoid saying to your child during an argument. (Later, I'll suggest some things you can say-and do-instead.)

1. "That's ridiculous! How can you be upset about that?"

If you have a teenager in the house, you've probably seen him get upset about issues that seem insignificant or petty. You wonder how he can stomp into his room and slam the door just because his girlfriend didn't text him back immediately. While his behavior might seem ridiculous by adult standards, try to refrain from invalidating his feelings. Think about a scenario where you've been upset and someone has brushed off your emotions. How did that make you feel? When a child believes his thoughts or feelings have been denied, not only does he feel more isolated, he's liable to get even more angry, frustrated and moody.

So if your child says, "You never take my side; you're always on my brother's side," during an argument, and you reply, "No, that's not true," that's also a form of invalidation. Instead of saying, "That's not true,? I think you could say, "Well, I see that a little differently. Tell me more about how you see it." By the way, you wouldn't want to ask that question during an argument, because it will just draw out the fighting and give your child more ammunition. Do it afterward, when he has calmed down and is ready to talk.

2. "You're just like your father."/"Why can't you be more like your brother?"

Even though it sounds fairly harmless, this one-two punch knocks down your child and his dad or mom. When Dad is frequently criticized in the home, for example, it's not a compliment to your child to be compared to his father. And every time his dad is put down in the future, your child will receive two more punches.

It's uncomfortable for kids to hear their parents saying negative things about each other, and if a child has been labeled as being "just like his dad," he will feel anger and shame when Dad is criticized. If it's an ex-spouse your child is being compared to, he may also feel that this is a threatening statement. In other words, if he's just like his father and his parents are divorced, where does that leave him?

It's also a mistake to say things like, ?Why can't you be more like your brother?" This is a pitfall for parents, especially when you have one child who acts out and one who behaves fairly reasonably. When you use this kind of comparison, it's hurtful and also pits your children against each other-you are tapping directly into sibling rivalry and actually fanning the flames between your kids. Remember, they are unique and each has good qualities.

3. "You never do anything right."/"You're a loser."

Being called a screw-up or an idiot is demeaning. These things are said to make people feel shame, or to put them in their place. Though many people think shame is a good way to punish kids, I don't think it gives children the tools they need to learn new skills. In fact, it will often have the opposite effect because it may cause them to withdraw. In the long run, shame will make your child less capable of making the right decisions.

By the way, shame is different from guilt, which can actually be a healthy emotion. Feeling guilty is not bad because it contains feelings of remorse and accountability. You should feel regret when you do something wrong or hurtful; that's natural. You want your child to feel some guilt when she borrows her sister's sweater without asking and then ruins it-and you want her to be accountable for that action. But don't use shame to try to make your child feel guilty. Shame has the effect of saying, "You're a worthless person." When the message is one of embarrassment and humiliation, it doesn't teach accountability.

4. "I'm through with you!"

We've all been fed up with our kids and thrown up our hands, but this phrase makes children feel isolated and should be avoided. "I'm through with you," is an angry threat often said with the desire to hurt the other person. In the long-term, continuing to say these types of remarks to your child will hurt your relationship.

Think of it this way: A child depends on his parents for survival. Parents provide protection, food, clothing and housing. So if the person who is in charge of nurturing the child makes a statement saying, "I'm cutting you off," it's shocking, frightening and can be very wounding.

5. "I wish I'd never had kids."

First of all, I want to say that you're not a monster if you've felt this way. We are all capable of feeling negative things at certain times. After a difficult day or a crushing argument with your child, you might think, "Sometimes I wish I never had children," because you're exhausted, drained and upset. It's important to understand that this feeling is "of the moment," and is not your overall emotion.

When you're feeling this way, I recommend that you bite your tongue and take some time to yourself to decompress and get back on track. Using these words to make your child feel badly for something he's done will usually only serve to make your relationship with him more volatile. If your child thinks he has nothing to lose-including your affection-he will often act out more.

6. "I hate you, too!"

When you say, "I hate you, too," to win an argument with your child, you've already lost. You're not your child's peer and you're not in a competition with him. By saying "I hate you," you've just brought yourself down to your child's level of maturity and left him thinking, "If my parent finds me repulsive, then I must be."

If you do say this to your child in the heat of an argument, it's important to go back later and say, "Listen, I realize that I said, "I hate you, too," and I want to apologize. It was wrong to say that to you. I am going to try to do a better job with my anger in the future." Keep it about your issues; you don't have to give your child a long explanation.



What to Do Instead of Saying Something You Might Regret

Parents wield a lot of psychological power over their kids. We tend to forget that sometimes-especially when our children are making us crazy. This happens to every parent, but we have to remember to hold back our emotions and our words and only say the things that are going to help teach the lessons we want our kids to learn.

If you're in that moment of extreme anger and frustration with your child here are several things you can do.

Take a deep breath: Take a deep breath when you're upset. This will make you feel less tense and the pause will give you time to stop yourself from saying those hurtful words. Remember, as James Lehman says, "You don't have to attend every fight you're invited to." Look at it this way: what happens when one side lets go of the rope in tug-of-war? The line goes slack and the other side has nothing to struggle against anymore. Take a deep breath and let go of that rope. This will give you time to calm down and regroup.

Refocus: Learn how to refocus your child on the task at hand. If you're trying to get your 12-year-old to do their homework and he gets angry and says, ?I hate you,? I suggest you respond with, "We're not talking about whether you love or hate me right now. What we're talking about is you doing your math. Let's focus on that." Kids will sometimes try to manipulate parents into a power struggle in order to avoid doing something they don't want to do. Try to focus on what needs to be done-and don't let their words derail you or bring you down to their maturity level.

Replace your words with an action: Recognize that if you've gotten to the point where you?re about to blurt something out that you may regret, it's a sign that you should leave the argument altogether. Again, you don't have to attend that fight. What you need in this situation is an exit strategy. Simply state, "I don't want to talk about this right now. We'll talk later when things are calmer." Then leave the room.

Resolve to stop: Sometimes people call the Parental Support Line and say, "I don't know how to stop saying these things to my child." It sounds simple, but part of how you stop is by making up your mind to quit. Tell yourself that you won't allow yourself to say those things anymore; they are no longer an option. When you take that possibility off the table, you will then be able to do something different.

Try to think about what you want your relationship with your kids to look like ten or twenty years from now; don't simply focus on this moment of tension when your frustration is really high.

As a parent, there are days when you open your mouth and hear your own mother's or father's words coming out-good and bad. I believe that parents usually don't mean it when they say hurtful things to their kids. But remember, what you say-and what you mean-isn't always what your child hears. As James Lehman says, "It's important to realize that what comes out of your mouth doesn't always get into your child's ear the way you want it to."

In any close relationship, people are going to bump into each other now and again. Unfortunately, people say hurtful things-we've all done it. But honestly, if a parent can go back to their child and say, "I'm sorry that I said this to you, I realize that it was wrong," that's usually enough. Most children are very forgiving; they love their parents and want to get along with them. They may still remember what you said, but they'll also remember the apology. That's good role modeling for any relationship, because you're saying, "I made a mistake. I'm sorry. I'm going to try not to do this anymore. And I love you."

39 comments:

  1. I know so many parents through the school that my twins attend that would benefit from reading this. I will be following you from now on, and hope you will take the time to check out my new blog too. http://cylestialchola.blogspot.com/

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  2. The first thing my kids need to hear is that I hear them, want to listen, and will always expect them to do good. Kids are no different than anyone else, we all need a little validation!

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  3. These are all great tips. I get so sad when I overhear someone say these things to their children.

    Children should always be uplifted never put down.

    Stopping by from the 100 Comments event.

    http://www.AsToldByLisa.com

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  4. Good thoughts.

    I think we all say things we regret and it's good to teach our children how to avoid saying the wrong things by our example.

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  5. Good post! We really need to think a little before we say things in the heat of an argument. Even if not intentional our words can cause problems.

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  6. These are very hateful things to say to anyone. What parents say matter to kids more than anything anyone else says. You're right, it is incredibly important to be careful how we speak to our children.

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  7. I know I've said things to my kids that I wish I hadn't. And I have had to apologize. But it is better to bite my tongue and not have regrets!

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  8. Great Great post! I stumbled this post because others need to read this.

    Many parents don't know how to communicate with their children once they get mad. Its really not what the child did most of the time but what the parent perceive as negativity towards them the parents.

    Thanks for working the hotline and helping parents & kids...

    Pamela
    Still Dating My Spouse
    http://stilldatingmyspouse.com

    Visiting via the 100 comment blog hop!

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  9. Great post! I barely like to argue so I always allow myself cool off time before I make any comments. I'm a vicious person when I'm angry and that's not who I like. Thanks for sharing this!

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  10. Thank you for posting....parenting doesn't come with instructions and we so often struggle to do and say the right things. I really appreciated your focusing on what you'd like the relationship to be like in the future....such wise advice.
    Peace and good to you.

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  11. I hate twins that drive me crazy some days and I often times have to bite my tongue and not say something hurtful. I admit I have a bad temper and that in the heat of the moment it's difficult to stop and think about what you are doing to say next, but it can be done!! Great post here!

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  12. Yes, treat children with love & respect. I tend to talk to mine like a little person!

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  13. I'm sorry, but I'm from the old school and I think it worked better. If my child had the unfortunate distaste to say she hated me, she would have mouthful of soap that she would taste for the rest of the day. Children rule the roost these days and parents think they have to say "please" and "thank you" to get them to obey. I agree that hasty words should not be spoken but I disagree with allowing a child to reach such a stage of rebellion to begin with. Happy day. Deb

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    1. I believe that it is important to say please and thanks to our children because we have to be examples for them. Thanks for your comments and visiting my blog.

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  14. Well I can't say that any of these things have come to my mind. I have a two year old and arguments with him wouldn't last very long :). However, I'm sure this would be very helpful to parents of older children.

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  15. THese words should never be said to anyone yet they are said way to often. Words hurt more than we think they do.

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  16. Great reminders of what not to say and what to say instead and/or do instead. As my 18-mo gets older and does understand more and more, I'm trying to be more patient and less explosive around him. TKS!

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  17. Great info! Parenting is hard, but this can surely help.

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  18. Great article. It is so hard to hear how some people talk to their kids especially in public. If they will respond like that with others around how do they speak to them at home. I loved these tips. Mine are still little so I want to learn all I can about how to respond to them when I am upset now to do better as they get older.

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  19. Great article - this can apply to more than just parenting, but in dealing with others in general!

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  20. Yikes! Those words are stingers...great reminder for people to think first before speaking.

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  21. I am guilty of telling my 3-year old "that's ridiculous" when he is whining about something. Other then that, I need to learn to control my volume and tone. Thankss for sharing these things and I hope many people are able to read it and gain some insight.

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  22. oh wow - those are terrible things to say - I feel so bad that there seem to be so many parents in the world who don't understand that "talk isn't cheap" b/c it can be so damaging and is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to take back. Good article & advice

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  23. Great advice! One not to say if you are in a divorce situation is the "You're just like your father" - especially when you don't like their parent. It's bad enough knowing your parent doesn't like the other and left them, but now they want to leave you too. On the other hand, I try to say they are just like that person in a possitive way.

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  24. I couldn't imagine saying any of those things to my daughter especially the last three. Of course, I come at parenting from a completely different angle than most people. I tried and failed for 9 miserable long years to get pregnant. Recently we adopted our amazing daughter and I plan on spending the rest of my life letting her know I always wanted her, every ounce of her is loved, she heals my war torn heart every day with her smile and giggle and she is full of potential. I feel like I'm constantly trying to make up for her spending her first month of life alone in a NICU. My mom friends tell me I am the most relaxed parent but I don't feel that way. I just know when you are relaxed ours will relax around you and I really want my daughter to relax around me. I was given a gift to raise with my heart and soul and I'm grateful for her every day. I wouldn't wish my pain and suffering for years on anyone but I know it made me a better parent.

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    1. I am glad that you were able to adopt a child and are now happy.

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  25. I remember being at the bus stop once and this woman was cussing her kids out! The kids were all under 5 years old! I really wish more parents would stop and think before they berate their children, especially in public.

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  26. I know I've said things I regret to my children ("I'm done!") and it does take practice. I believe you can't just say you are going to stop, you really have to plan how you are going to react differently. If you say you'll stop yelling or saying things but don't have an alternative plan of what you are going to do, it's not going to happen.

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  27. There are some things that should never be said to kids! Even when I'm mad, I try very hard to think before I speak. I've heard my daughter say things (nothing bad, just not nice) to her brothers when she gets made and realized that she was repeating what I had said to her. It's really made me think. Of course I also explained to her that she can't discipline her brothers like Mommy can.

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  28. It is so important to remember the power of words. You are making memories for your children. Watch what you say and think before you say it. We all sometimes say the wrong thing, though. Then we need to make sure we apologize.

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  29. Oh boy you're so right! I am guilty of throwing my hands in the air and saying "I'm done", particularly with my son who is...challenging lol.

    I always feel so bad when I lose control and say something stupid. I am the adult and should act like it but it's hard sometimes in the heat of the moment. I have tried hard to learn to just walk away if I'm about ready to just explode and say something dumb. I go into my room to just chill out for a bit until I can calm down. After all, isn't that what we tell kids to do when they're upset?

    Christy
    www.alivinghomeschool.com

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  30. Great post on parenting! I could never read too much parenting advice! There's just really so much tpo learn! Some you learn by reading, some you learn by experience.

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  31. Good advice. I think the most important thing I have learned as a parent is to apologize when we do wrong. It means a lot for us and our kids.

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  32. This is a great post. It's good to think about the affects of what you might say before you are tempted to say them. Thanks for sharing.

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  33. Words can fly so easily, yet the damage is almost impossible to repair.

    That's why its so important to have God's Word within us.

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  34. Good ideas. I am careful with what I say to my kids because it always comes back to you.

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  35. I definitely agree that you have to watch what you say to your children. Thanks for the great tips. :)

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