The Things we should say to our children
Sunday, 20 October 2013
There's so many things we shouldn't say to a child that sometimes it gets to the point where we begin to wonder, is there anything we actually can say without the fear of jacking up the future therapy bill. To be fair though, on reflection, it's not so much the things we shouldn't say but more so the ways in which we could say them and understanding how what we mean and what they hear/understand can differ.
So a few things we most definitely could and should say, you know just to balance it all out and gain some 'phew I didn't completely fuck them up' points because I for one could certainly do with some of them.
I love you
No brainer right? Even when The Spawn have been absolute cretins, I still make sure I tell them this at least once a day, usually more. It's especially apt they realise that even if you don't like what they did, you still love them and who they are. They need to know that it's unconditional. Just because they know you love them, doesn't mean they don't need to hear it.
No shit sherlock. We all make mistakes, we're not superhuman. The important thing is to recognise that we've made one and apologise. Lead by example. Show them that everyone gets things wrong at times and it's okay. It's not just okay to apologise it's actually really important to do so. To show them how to get resolution and closure. To show them that acknowledging you were in the wrong is brave and strong and right. Plenty of times I've flown off the handle and gone into screeching banshee of a million periods on them or said/did something unfair or that I regret. It still doesn't make their original behaviour right but, it's important to acknowledge that I may have dealt with it badly. How can you ever expect your child to feel or say sorry if you never do?
I made a mistake / I was wrong
Very similar to I'm sorry and just as vital. It's important for our children to know that we all make mistakes, that it's normal and that it's always best to admit to them and if possible, to learn from them. To know that no matter how right you thought you were, you can still have been wrong. Maybe you jumped to a wrong conclusion? Blamed someone for something they didn't actually do? Forgot to do something you said you would? Own up to it. They learn from example. It teaches them to reflect on what they've done and will help them make better choices.
Sometimes, it really is okay to just sod it and say yes. Choose your battles, anything for a quiet life. Sometimes we instinctively say no, without actually thinking, why not? Just because something seems pointless or silly doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't do it. I know I definitely need to say yes more often.
It's also okay to say no. Doesn't mean they have to like it but they do have to accept it and respect it. Give a reason and explanation as to why you're saying no. If possible offer an alternative. Acknowledge how you saying no is making them feel i.e 'I know that you really wanted to go on that ride and you're really sad that you can't. I'm sorry you're feeling sad' See? You can say it nicely whilst still sticking to the no. Sometimes you have to say no for whatever reason.
I need some help
They're more likely to do something for you if it's because you need them to as opposed to just wanting them too. It's okay to admit you're not invincible and may need a little help now and then.
They're not stupid. Even if you try and hide how you're feeling they'll know. What they won't know however is why and if you don't tell them they may assume it's a) them that are making you feel that way b) you don't trust them enough c)that you're not supposed to share how you're feeling. I'm not saying you have to lie back on the sofa and tell them your every woe, just to maybe say you're feeling sad/angry/frustrated and maybe give a reason, it doesn't have to be detailed but it's showing them it's okay to admit how you're feeling.
Can you do it yourself, I'm just a bit busy?
You're in the middle of cooking, trying to stop things burning and preventing the smoke alarm serenading you like a drunken neighbour and The Toddler needs a dump. He usually insists that you go with him. Not sure if he just wants the company of if he simply wants to show off his logs. Either way he refuses to go alone, yet occasionally if I say 'I'm sorry but I'm really busy right now, can you try and do it yourself and if you get stuck or need me, shout and I'll come up' Other times he may wait till all eight of my hands are busy and suddenly simply need a drink. If I ask him if he'd like to try and pour it himself, emphasising it's okay if he can't, he usually lights up like a beacon that he can do a grown up job. It's offering independence without forcing it.
In a minute/Not right now/please wait
I use this way more than I should but sometimes, just sometimes, it really is okay to say it. It's okay to not be immediately at their beck and call, it's okay to be busy sometimes. You're hanging washing out and they're begging for you to read their favourite book (for the 9th time today) yet if you tell them why you can't do it right now but you will do when you're finished, they are learning to wait but that they're still important. You're giving them the information of what needs to happen first. You could even ask them to help you to get it done quicker. So long as it's a reason and not a fob off, it's okay to say 'in a minute' Like when you've just sat down and they want you to play farms, it's okay to say 'Not right now' and ask them to wait, so long as you give them an indication of when you will such as 'after I've eaten this' or 'I've just got to finish the pots and then make a phone call then I'll come and play' Let them know the order of things.
Sometimes if they've made a mistake, it's important to know that things are okay and that if they're not now they will be soon. Whatever they're feeling, they need to know it's okay to feel it.
It's okay to not win. It's okay to get something wrong.
Thing One recently did some maths tests yet despite still scoring high he was upset and angry at himself for not getting some of the questions right, especially as he knew the answers. He didn't need to be told to concentrate more next time or not to make silly mistakes, he needed to hear that it's okay. Because it is okay. He did well, he still got lots right, that it's okay to get some wrong because through getting things wrong we can learn from it.
I'm proud of you
Even if they've been absolute gits, the chances are for every one thing they did wrong they probably did ten right. It's important to recognise these things, so they know when they're doing something right such as 'I'm proud of the way you helped your sister, that was a really nice thing to do' or 'I was really proud of how hard you worked on that story'.
Even if it's something you asked or told them to do, it's still important to thank them for doing it. You can even thank them for making you feel a certain way. Thank them for being them, if you like.
There's many ways we can positively impact upon our children with words. Children often love to talk, to tell you what they've been doing (granted it's never on the way home from school, they only seem to remember at bedtime) Ask them questions about their day. Ask their opinion on things. Take the time to talk to them and more importantly to let them talk to you.
Don't just give empty praise, back it up with a reason or example. Tell them you're proud of them, but tell them why. What did they do that made you feel proud? Don't just tell them you like their drawing, ask them to tell you about it and tell them what parts you like best. Don't just say you're pleased they wrote a good story in class today, ask them what it was about and if they would read it to you. Tell them they're special and why. Tell them how they make you feel, if they did something that made you happy, laugh, smile...tell them what they did and how it made you feel. Being told how you positively impact on someone is just as important as being told you're loved.
Back up your compliments and praise with physicality. A touch, a hug, a kiss, a cuddle...all positively re-enforce what you're saying. Children remember physical contact, it's emotionally and beneficial promoting security, love and a sense of well being.