Have you ever been so frustrated that you’ve said some things that you wish you could take back? I think we’ve all been there before. But it’s really important for us to watch what we say to and about our children - especially when you’re angry. My daughter is in her little teenage age. There are moments, when I wish to rent her to somebody else for a while. This is the moments when I really need to count 1,2,3...
Last week, my friend told me a story about a conversation that she had with another parent on the Soccer field. My friend revealed to the other parent that her child had a bit of a bad day but emphasized that regardless of what happened, she still thought her son was the best thing since sliced bread. However, the other parent seemed bothered and stated, “I’m more realistic about my kids.” That mom then went on to list all of the traits that she didn’t like about her own children. And that was her focus for the next thirty minutes! My friend was so upset. I understood that mom and my friend as well, as Sara is giving me hard time every single day. On the other hand I knew that mom is doing something which will make the situation worst. So I decided to take a few minutes to share with you some emotionally safe ways to talk to kids.
- Don’t criticize your child. Instead, focus on their behavior. We all do silly things but that doesn’t make us bad people. It’s the same for our children. When we are disciplining our children, focus on the behavior – not the child. So instead of saying “You are so disrespectful” you could say something like “It bothers me when you raise your voice when you speak to me.” See the difference?
- This leads me to the next point. Use “I statements” instead of “You Statements.” When you focus on how their behavior impacts you (and others) then you’re again not focusing on the person but on the behavior. For instance, if I said “You are so selfish,” how do you feel? Probably not so good. But what if I said, “I feel unappreciated when you do that.” Now how do you feel? Maybe remorseful - but you probably don’t feel attacked. See, it feels very different.
- Remember that your children are people. Sometimes we forget that our kids are people too. Sure, they are resilient; thank God because no one gets this parenting thing absolutely correct all the time. But just like words impact us, they impact our children too; probably even worse because they don’t have the resources to filter out all of the negative chatter. So be sure to give yourself a “time out” and allow yourself time to cool down before you discipline your kids – especially when you’re really angry.
- Be sure to focus on the good things that your kids do WAY more than the bad things. Be intentional about praising your children when they do things well. This way, you’ll have a more balanced perspective of your kids. You’ll remind your children and yourself that your kids are wonderful when you spend more time praising them than you do criticizing them. Then you and your kids will be more prone to see their goodness, even when they mess up. And let’s face it, they WILL mess up from time to time!
- Don’t say negative things about your kids in front of your kids. Sure, you may have to explain something that your children have done to other adults at some point, but stick to the behavior. Don’t make a habit out of airing your frustrations about your children to other parents. Sure, children have aspects that need to be worked on. Who doesn’t? But telling your friends how frustrating your kids are, especially when they are within earshot, is almost setting them up for failure. Kids become who they believe they are. Spend more time telling people about your child’s greatness and watch how quickly their behavior begins to improve! Remember, kids WANT to please you. The more you focus on behavior that does in fact please you, the more of that behavior you’re going to get!
We all get frustrated with our children at times. Sometimes we may even want to lock ourselves in the bathroom or yell at the top of our lungs to get the frustration out. But remember, the way that you use your words is shaping your most precious cargo – your children!