When I was growing up, my mother would say things to my sibling and me that I promised myself I would never say to my own children. Though I made this promise to myself, they slip out. After hearing these things and talking with my children about what bothered them, I compiled a mental list of things that never should be said.
As children, we all developed positive and negative self-talk. Self-talk includes the words and phrases spoken to us that are retained in our long-term memory. When we are faced with a challenge, positive or negative self-talk rears its head. If a child constantly hears: “You are dumb, just like your friend,” they will not be able to successfully tackle a hard task. Helping children learn positive self-talk develops persistence and the ability to stay on track, which, in turn, develops positive self-esteem.
Here are a few things I have heard my own parents, myself or other parents say to their children. Trying to stay away from these phrases is the goal of setting your child on the path to success.
“You have potential but don’t use it.” Children feel insulted hearing this, often losing any motivation they may have and developing an attitude of “I don’t care.” Rather parents should ask: “How can I help you reach your full potential?”
“I’m disappointed in you.” This phrase is in some cases appropriate to use; however, it is the tone that is important. A comment like this should be used in private with a loving “How can I help you to do better next time” feel.
“Your sister never did that.” As parents, we must be fair to our children. Some children need little support to accomplish a task while others need more support. Equitable parenting is giving each child what they need to be successful; customizing your approach and support is necessary for each child.
“Your sister would have never done that.” Never compare siblings. Children have their own personalities and styles of being. As a parent, is it important to see the positive attributes each child has and build on those. Having a favorite child is a dangerous approach to forming positive relationships with your children.
“You’ll never amount to anything.” This is the negative self-talk. Each child has their path and as parents, it is our responsibility to coach our children to make good choices.
“I’m busy now; can we talk later?” Our children are precious beings we are entrusted to raise. Giving them the time to talk, cry or celebrate is what parenting is about. Children’s growth is rapid. Give children the time to instill values and beliefs early on.
As the holiday season approaches, join me in taking the time to listen to and be there for our children. May this season be a safe and healthy one for your family.
Anne E. Mead, Ed. D., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.