Children learn by example, period. How you act, what you say, and personal shortcomings—if done within the earshot or eye line of a child—is prone to replication by your kids.
Unfortunately, far too many parents disregard or downplay the susceptibility of the child’s brain. Out of ignorance, these parents ramble on, curse, and even verbally abuse one another in a child’s presence. Caught up in their own internal world, the adult fails to self-monitor for the sake of the child.
On the flip side, good behavior and speech are just as prone to replication. A child, after all, looks at their parents as role models. “Oh, this is how I’m supposed to talk? Is this is the way I’m supposed to act? Okay, well, if Mommy and Daddy are doing it, it must be right,” the child thinks. Make no mistake, this is how every child perceives their parent’s actions until they know better.
In this article, we’re going to discuss few things never to tell your children.
“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain brained in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul.”
– Carlos Ruiz Zafón, “The Shadow of the Wind.”
1. “DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS.”
While telling a child to avoid people they don’t know sounds like good advice, it can backfire. Yes! For example, if someone’s nice to your child, they may think that they’re not “strangers” anymore.
Instead, imagine a situation and ask your child what they would do: “If a strange man pulls up in a car and tells you to get in, what do you do?” After their response, give them the best answer. Another strategy is to issue a wide ultimatum and keep repeating it until the child remembers it. For example, “If anyone ever makes you feel afraid, confused, or scared, you need to ignore them.”
2. “HURRY UP!”
When a child is continuously told to “hurry up,” they become super sensitive to fluctuations in their parent’s mood. While this may sound rather harmless, psychologists state that aggressively telling a child to hurry causes additional stress.
Instead, you may want to try turning your frustration into a game. For instance, tell your child, “Who can get their shoes on first?!” Or, “I bet I can get to the car faster than you!” You get the idea?
3. “I’LL DO IT,” OR “LET ME HELP YOU.”
It can be challenging to see our beloved child struggling with something, especially when they’re putting their hearts into a problem. “If you jump in too soon,” says Myrna Shure, Ph.D., and professor of psychology at Drexel University, “that can undermine your child’s independence because he’ll always be looking to others for answers.”
Try to help the child by offering some advice or asking a guiding question relevant to the task at hand before jumping in.
4. “SHUT UP!”
Take it easy! A couple of things to consider here: One; it’s a child. Two; the language is harsh. While children can be loud and disruptive, setting the rules and correcting behavior early on can help to avoid this sort of outburst.
Saying, “You’re too loud, speak gently,” amongst other statements to specifically correct why your child should be silent.
5. “YOU TRIED YOUR BEST…”
Seriously, did they? Again, be careful here. Children are as capable of appearing to “work” hard as adults. If a child thinks they can get away with “making appearances,” they may be tempted to put off challenges under the guise of “trying their best.”
Another thing: Even if they did try their best only to come up short, do you really want to equate their “best” with mediocrity? At such a young age, children are always capable of becoming better.
6. “YOU’RE SO SMART!”
If a child is precocious, it’s natural to want to praise them for their gifts. We’re proud, and we want to let them know. “Saying that thing to children actually can work against their striving to learn,” says Dr. Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard Center for Toddler Development, US.
Instead, voice your approval regarding a child’s work ethic. As necessary, encourage them to keep going
7. COMPARISON – “YOUR FRIEND IS DOING BETTER THAN YOU.”
Maybe they are less. But have you ever stopped to really look at what the hyper-competitive society produces? Stressed-out people who are never satisfied with themselves. Why else do you think people work everyday all week and take a record number of prescription drugs to help with illness from stress?
The advice here is simple: Never compare!
8. SELF BLAME – “I’M SO FAT/UGLY/STUPID.”
In early childhood, the concept of self-image is foreign. Babies and young kids don’t think about how they look. How should they judge themselves and others? By how much fat they have? By physical appearance? Or by inherent intellect?
This is the message we’re sending when we complain about being fat, ugly, dumb or any other self-defeating language in front of a child.