For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s third law does not only apply to actions, it also applies to words. Key to any healthy relationship is good and clear communication. But what we usually forget is that talking and communicating are two different things. Communicating means saying something in a way that the listener understands it the way we meant it. It’s not just what we say, how we say it makes a lot of difference in the way it is perceived.
Parents share a unique bond with their children. It is the parent’s responsibility to provide a nurturing, caring and healthy environment for their child to grow up in. Children look up to their parents and learn from them. As parents, we do everything for the betterment of our children. We do all that we can to give them the best of everything. We keep them safe, give them affection, and advice and prepare them for their future. Parents must keep in mind that young children are very sensitive, what parents say to their children may have a more permanent and damaging subconscious effect than intended and can do more harm than good. Even something that is intended as a praise may have a negative impact on the child. Child psychologist’sadvice parents to keep check on their language in front of their children. We have, hence, listed below some of the most commonly used phrases that parents should actually avoid while talking to their children:
- Stop crying!:Children generally cry when they do something wrong and know that they will be punished or even when they are scared or hurt. Like any other human being, they have the right to show their emotions. Parents should not force their child to stop crying by screaming out “stop crying immediately”. Children learn from every single action of ours, even if they don’t realize it. By saying this phrase, you are essentially telling your child to not to show their emotions, something they may hold on to forever. Instead make them understand that its good to process emotions and express them and why they should stop crying.
Try: “It’s ok if you want to cry but you will get the punishment to fit the wrong doing.” Or
If they are scared then try “its ok baby, its ok to be scared. But you are safe here. Mummy/daddy will keep you safe.”
- You are worthless/an idiot: This is probably the worst thing to say to your child. Your child looks to you for your approval in whatever they do. By saying this, you are killing their self-confidence and making them reliant on the outside world for approval for all their actions. As parents, our job is to encourage our children to be better human beings. It is imperative that we teach our children to look inside themselves for approval. Instead of using this phrase, try something that says this time you did not do so well but you can do better next time.
Try: “Nobody is perfect, I know you’ll do better next time” and “you know what you did was wrong, you are a better person than this”
- You disappoint me: Every person makes mistakes; your child will too. As a parent, you have a duty to show them their mistakes and teach them to overcome their mistakes. Children are highly perceptive and intelligent, if you make them understand what they did was wrong and why, they will be more receptive. Losing your temper on them will get you nowhere. Telling your child that they disappoint you is not a solution. It is your responsibility to show them the right path. So, when they go on a wrong one, guide them back.
Try: “What you did was wrong, and when I explain to you why, you will see that you are a better person than this and you can do so much better”
- Let me do it: Your parental instincts tell you to help your child when they are stuck doing something. But if you jump in too early, it might send a wrong message. They will learn to give up easily and always look towards you for an answer. Let them try and fail a couple of times before you offer your help, and even when you do, guide them towards what they should try instead. Remember your responsibility is to guide your child to the right path, not pick them up and put them there. They have to choose it themselves; only then they will learn how to choose the right path even if you are not there.
Try: “Do you think it will come out better if we did it this way. Let’s give it a try, shall we?”
- You are not allowed to do this before you finish doing that: By saying this, you are teaching your child that toys, dessert, or play, are rewards for doing chores like eating dinner or finishing their homework. This will increase the importance of the reward and diminish that of chores, dinner and homework; exactly opposite of what you want to accomplish. Changing the words you use even a little bit, can have a far more positive impact.
Try: “Let’s finish this first then we go to that.”
- You are so smart/You are so much better than him/her: Parents always want their child to be the best in what they do. And when they do a good job we want to tell them how proud we are of them. But choosing the right words to convey this feeling, is very important. Don’t compare your child with anyone else. Stick to that old saying “you are your only competition”. This will teach your child to work hard and be better than they were yesterday and not base their sense of accomplishments on failure of others. Telling your child that they are smart is not wrong, but if said in the wrong way it can build narcissistic characteristics in them. And can work against the learning process. They will think they are already smart, they don’t have to practice anymore.
Try: “You were so good, the practice and hard work you have been putting in paid off.”
- Don’t make me ground you: Sometimes children do something that they need to be punished for. Punishments that match the crime are important to teach children that actions have consequences. So next time your children are squabbling in the back seat while on the way to a family vacation and you tell them that if they don’t stop it immediately you will turn around the car; Do It! Don’t say something that you won’t do. If you tell your child that they are grounded and won’t be allowed to go out of the house to see their friends, stick to it. Follow through. If you can’t follow through, then don’t say it.
Every child is different and has different levels of sensitivity. Keep your eyes and ears open. See how your child reacts to different things. The above-mentioned phrases are not prohibited. Its ok if you tell your child you are proud of them or they did a good job on something or if you let them go to their best friend’s birthday party even when they are grounded. There are no set rules to parenting. Just try different things and see what fits. Think about what words can have a positive impact and what words can affect negatively and choose wisely.