I see these all the time. And I wish I didn't.
These are real phrases I've heard, or behaviors I witnessed. And while they may seem harmless, silly, or all too familiar, these common mistakes are actively making it harder for your child to be a self-actualized person.
“It's just... you're fine."
When you dismiss emotions, they don't disappear. We either learn to a: stuff them down and build a wall, b: disconnect from our feelings and our behaviors or c: develop unhealthy methods to manage our emotions (projecting, blaming, lying, shame, guilt, distractions) Instead of dismissing, offer space and empathy “wow, that scared you huh?” “I can see you need more time to be upset.”
Using Shame and Guilt
“Be a big boy”
“Sit here and think about what you did.”
“Eww, gross!” in response to human bodily functions.
"I'm sad about this choice you made. This makes me so disappointed .”
“I can't believe you'd do that” “How could you do this to me?”
Shame and guilt are particularly nasty methods of control because they prey on your sense of self-worth and confidence and can drive your inner voice for the rest of your life (ask me how I know). Instead, use the formula of non-violent communication (I feel.... because I need... Would you please...) to correct behavior, and use positive encouragement for motivation.
Coddling and catering to whims “Anything for my sweet baby”
Thinking “it's ok this time” every time.
When you choose to not be the adult in a situation and neglect to set firm, clear limits, your child will press and press until she finds the limits' edge. Read more about setting limits here.
My Way or the Highway
Badgering: “What are you doing!?, Why would you do that!? Can't you see I'm trying to work here?!"
“Because I said so.”
“You better behave or else”
On the other end of the permissive spectrum is being too aggressive or controlling. Children of authoritative parents either become submissive, meek individuals, or sneaky, reckless and rebellious. Instead, you can control the environment and your child's behavior through questions, logical consequences, and empathy.
Being “cute” and “funny”
“Wood bwaby wike some wa-wa to drinky-poo?”
Lying about things that are “cute” and insisting they are true “No really, the moon is made of cheese!”
Children say and do hilarious things. Don't abuse your power and take advantage of your child's developing brain for your own amusement. At best, it's confusing to them, and you also risk damaging their dignity, self-confidence, sense of truth, safety, and trust. Be clear when you are telling a joke, sharing a silly story, or talking about a fictional character. And wait until you are out of the room to smirk at those adorable (but un-dignifying) things your toddler did this morning.
The Helpful Hero
“Here, let me do that for you”
“Dad, I can't find my shoe.” Instead of asking “hmm, where did YOU have YOUR shoe last?” responding with “Oh, I'll go find it”
Your 6 year old forgets to bring her lunch to school all the time, and every time she forgets, there you are in the front office (late for work I might add) with a lunch for her.
What happens when you aren't there to save the day? When your child needs to ask for help, solve a problem, or deal with the negative consequences of their actions? If you protect your child from this process when the problems are little, she is forced to learn on big, complicated problems that have lasting life consequences when she's older. Better to practice on small concerns.
Nagging: “Remember to make your bed. You need to make your bed before school. Did you make your bed yet?”
Offering excessive warnings/advice: “careful!” “watch-out!” “that's going to fall over” “ don't do it like that, try this”
Hovering and interjecting: “are you making a cake? You'll need a spoon. Where's the spoon? Here it is. Stir like this. round and round and round."
When you are constantly evaluating or directing your child, you project a sense of anxiety, and limits your child's ability to process what's happening and make decisions. Designing your day and space to enforce safety and your values is the first step to reducing this behavior.
Jumping to Conclusions
“I see you being sneaky over there.”
“That should be easy for you, you're not trying.”
“Mom, she hit me!” “Don't hit your sister.”
“She's fake crying, just trying to get attention”
“You're lying. That's not true.”
Making automatic assumptions is a poor habit anyway, but for your children it erodes their trust that you care, are paying attention, and will accept them no matter what. Taking the time to listen and observe is a HUGE part of being a mindful parent, and with practice you can stop these automatic answers.
About the Author:
Leanne Gray, M.Ed has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained.
She's on a mission to raise a generation of kind, confident, responsible children, and does this through her work with families and schools. Read more here.
Leanne Gray, M.Ed is the owner of The Prepared Environment, which supports families in creating an ideal environment for their children at home. She has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained. You can always contact her for personalized support and answers to your questions