When it comes to raising kids, every parent has their own technique. Whether those techniques always work, however, remains to be seen. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that kids are a bit more sensitive than adults (for the most part, at least), so words or phrases you might direct towards them may be interpreted in ways that were hardly your intention.
Nevertheless, these words and phrases exist — and you might be using them without realizing. Whether you consider yourself the gold standard of parents or the kind of parent who needs a crash course in dos and don’ts, keep reading. These comments and actions can be more psychologically damaging than you may realize.
Are there particular phrases or actions that you specifically avoid around your kids? Let us know!
Not babying your babies. Your kids are kids. They’re young. They’re learning. Most of all, they’re sensitive. They haven’t quite gotten a complete grasp on their lives just yet, and that’s perfectly OK. As important as it is to reprimand them when necessary, it’s just as important to treat them their age. The director of the Barnard Toddler Center at Columbia University, Tovah Klein, is very much a proponent for kids being treated like kids (without the fear of spoiling them. “You can’t spoil a baby by holding them or responding to them too much,” he said. “Babies who receive more sensitive and response care become the more competent and independent toddlers.”
White lies. It might seem difficult and traumatizing to be upfront with your kids over issues like death or sicknesses, but that couldn’t be less true. Beating around the bush is only setting your kids up for a great deal of confusion. It’s part of life. They’re going to figure it out sooner or later. Saying it as it is adds normalcy to the concept, which is far better than making them believe one thing when the truth is that they’re going to have to eventually face the morbid realities.
Raising all of your kids the same way. Your kids aren’t just your kids — they’re developing human beings. They have unique qualities, unique emotions and unique abilities. Raising them all the same is like raising sheep. The care taking aspect is present, but not the actual parenting. Your kids need to learn how to develop emotionally just as much as they’re developing physically, but only one of those aspects rely on you.
Skipping family dinner. Socializing plays an enormous role in getting your child ahead in life. The ability to socialize stems from bonding and the ability to connect with others. This starts with the family. With conflicting schedules always getting in the way, the most reliable constant is eating. Skipping this simple step in raising kids can keep them from building stronger relationships in the future, thus making it harder for them to develop socially.
Lashing out. You try to be an understanding parent. When they’re nagging or being “typical kids,” you just let it slide. Really, though, you shouldn’t behave like this. Chances are you’re not letting these things slide, but letting them all build up — which will just lead to a parental explosion. This method isn’t healthy because it’s not teaching your kids to deal with issues head-on and as they come. When they’re misbehaving, maturely advise them why they need to stop. Otherwise, they’re just going to think it’s normal to freak out over minor issues.
An eye for an eye. Spanking a child is one thing, and that’s left up to the parent’s choice (as long as it’s not bordering on physical abuse), but when a child is acting out, you’re better off explaining to them why what they did was wrong, rather then responding with aggression. Aggression + aggression = aggression, whereas if you let them understand that expressing anger is natural, but that expressing it aggressively is wrong, they’re more likely behave next time.
Being a hypocrite. In your eyes, you believe you know better — and chances are you actually do. But telling your kids to do or think one way while you’re doing or saying the opposite makes your word seem less legitimate. Your kids are following your lead, and they’re not going to buy into what you say just because you say it. There’s not much weight to your teachings if you don’t even believe or follow them yourself.
Comparing them with other kids. You should be proud of your child’s qualities, even the ones you’re not completely on board with. Their qualities are what make them unique, and comparing them to other kids is like telling them they aren’t as qualified. They’ll constantly feel as though they’re missing something or that they’re disappointing you in some way. Everybody learns and grows at different paces. Let your kids do the same.
Stop crying. Telling your child to “stop crying” is essentially shaming your child’s emotional capacity. When they need to cry, let them. Crying couldn’t be more natural. It’s our body’s way of “getting it off our chest.” Let them cry. It’s natural. Telling them not to is the equivalent of telling them that it isn’t normal. Cry-shaming doesn’t do anyone any good.
Putting down your spouse in front of them. First of all, this isn’t instilling much faith in their perception of relationships. From the way you’re approaching it, relationships require no respectable weight. If you and your spouse are having issues, these issues should remain between you and your spouse. This is true even if your child knows you’re having issues. Teach them that solving problems and handling them without resorting to spite is the healthy method necessary for longevity. They’ll follow your lead.
Doing their work for them. It’s completely natural to not want to see your kids struggle, but it’s actually important that they do. They’re constantly learning, whether they want to or not. Finishing their homework for them because they just can’t seem to get through it teaches them nothing. Well, it’s teaching them that if they come across problems, they can outsource it to someone else. Even though in the real world, they really can’t.
Making promises you can’t keep. Your kids are listening to every word you say (even when you think they may not be). They’re like human sponges. Making promises that you can’t keep will stick with them. They’ll associate the idea of promises with disappointment, and their trust issues will only grow from there. Give them and do for them what is realistic for your capabilities. Giving less is far better than unfulfilled promises.
Shushing/shutting them up. It might seem innocent enough, especially when they’re frustrating you — but it’s not the whole story. You not only teach them rude behavior, you make them feel as though what they say doesn’t matter. Even when they’re simply just being irritating, it’s not healthy. Talk to them. Respond. Even if it doesn’t happen in that exact moment, they’ll learn.
Letting them fend for themselves. You want to instill maturity and independence in them, but it shouldn’t come at a cost. It’s not as though you’ve given up on them, but you may be giving them too much breathing room. They need to know right from wrong, and for a while, they need to be led. Once you show them the ropes, they’ll develop better judgment, but that’s going to take some practice. Teaching independence shouldn’t equate to neglect.
BFF. You’re a parent, not a friend. While this doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly, placing yourself too closely on their level can actually get in the way of a healthy parent/child relationship. Children need leaders and authoritarians. That’s how they learn.