I had such great feedback on my last EP blog post, 5 Things You Should Never Say to Your Child that I thought I would add some further thoughts. Remember none of us are “perfect” parents. It’s a learning process for all of us, and just like we were once children, we know that our kids will fall short — and as adults, we fall short too. My hope is that my posts will inspire you, give fresh perspectives and offer ideas that you might not be implementing.
1. BECAUSE I SAID SO! If we say to our kid “Because I said so!” I think we are building a controlling atmosphere.One of my main focuses for writing is that I believe in building relationship with our children. Not just our friends or spouses, but also our kids! I think the key to any relationship is being REAL, and being authentic. I think it’s important to ask yourself, “How can my child relate to this? Or “How can I relate to my child?” And, “How does my child relate to me?”
When we say, “Because I said so!” aren’t we really saying that because we are adults and older than them, no matter what, without reason or explanation, we just shut them out?
I am not saying our children need a 15 minute long reason why, or even a 5 minute explanation. I am just offering the idea that giving our kids a legitimate reason shows them respect. (And if we can’t, then maybe we need to ask ourselves if we even know why we are saying NO to something.) By giving them a basic, truthful answer, it builds relationship because you are creating communication. Encouraging communication gives our kids a sense of individuality and safety, and we are teaching them along the way how to be relational in life.
Let’s be mature as parents and walk through issues with our kids. Let’s take the TIME to invest in small explanations as to why we came to make the decision for them that we did. We’ll be earning trust and they won’t feel so inferior. Because a lot of times I think that is what can happen. Parents think that because they are older and more mature, that their kids are inferior to them. We don’t want our teens to feel like they aren’t human. Meaning that sometimes the humanness of parent/child relationships gets lost because there are so many control issues going on. I think a lot of teens feel that their parents aren’t “Human” because they don’t take the time to relate with them. Maybe it’s been years since you were a teen, but I think most of us can look back and at least put ourselves in their shoes and realize that we’ve been there too. And that’s a really good place to start.
2. ACT YOUR AGE! or (You’re 5 years old, so act like it!) Don’t you think if they could act their age, they would? They are clueless on how they ought to be acting, so it’s our job to not just TELL them, but to show them, and to be a role model that inspires them. They will learn from us and by what we have to offer to help them through life.
I know how tempting it can be, especially if we are in the bad habit of comparing our kids to other kids, to say to your child, “You should know better. Act your age.” But hear me when I say this: that is extremely degrading. The number one issue that children of all ages deal with due to parenting is SHAME. It’s a deep-rooted issue across the board. And it seeps into adulthood. When your child hears, “Act your age” they HEAR this: “You are so bad, naughty, and I’m embarrassed of you. Shame on you for not knowing better. Shape up. Other kids are better than you.” They hear: “I am not accepted, I am shunned, I am not good enough.”
It instantly shuts their spirit down. Unseen trauma is going on inside of them, but it is trauma that you will see later as they grow. If your child is misbehaving, or they do something out of the ordinary by being really naughty, maybe figure out the best way to discipline them, instead of using words that hurt. I do not for one second believe the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is the biggest lie in our society. Words stick. Words matter.
3. SHAME ON YOU! Again, creating shame for a child is devastating. It will block safety and trust. They have got to know that no matter WHAT they do that you love them and are there for them. They need a space where they can be open with us, and share. Shaming is condemning, and it’s extremely unhealthy on so many levels. And like I said earlier, it STAYS with them. If our kids do something so unexpected, or awful, or “disgusting,” we have got to take a few deep breaths, or even 10 minutes to WAIT before we act. Because if we don’t, we will REact, instead of REspond.
4. SHUT UP. Like I mentioned earlier, words matter. Anything less than positive is going to affect our kids. Hey, as adults it would affect us if someone told us to shut up, right? It’s disrespectful and quite honestly, I think it’s a selfish thing to say.
5.YOU KNOW BETTER! I get how this one might seem confusing, because a lot of times our kids might know better; But how will this build relationships? We know that they are going to do things that they know they shouldn’t. But they often don’t really know the reason not to do it—not completely anyway.
So instead of saying the obvious, why not take it as an opportunity to ask them why they did it, and share with them why it wasn’t the best choice? Again, it’s all about being relational — relating to them and with them.
Recently, I had an experience with my 16-year-old daughter that really made me put my money where my mouth was. Overall, we haven’t had too many devastating issues with her, other than “typical” arguments, if that’s what you want to call them.
What happened was this: I heard my daughter was involved in an incident (I’m not going to go into details) so I followed up with her to find out if it was true or not. She opened up, took responsibility and fessed up to it. Instantly I was “disgusted” and in shock. I couldn’t even look at her at first. I could feel my breathing getting heavier, and I was purposely not looking at her. Then I though to myself, “Gina, you’re not perfect, but you write a blog on teen parenting. What are you going to do now? Are you going to live up to your words and advice?”
I took several minutes before I spoke, and my husband filled the air space while I gathered my thoughts. Finally, I forced myself to look my daughter in the eyes, because I did not want to screw this up! And I said these exact words:
“Honey, thank you so very much for being honest with me first of all. I know that you could have lied and you chose to be truthful and I appreciate it. I know that must have been difficult and scary. Secondly, I want you to know how very disappointed I am. I’m really disappointed that you made the decision that you did. And it’s not OK what you did. Do you realize this? Can I ask why? And right now I don’t know exactly what I’ll do about responsibility on your part as far as punishment, but there will be one. And lastly, I want you to know how very much I love you. I’ve been there. I was 16 once and I remember making dumb choices, I understand what it’s like to be under pressure with a bunch of people, I get it. And I want you to know that no matter what you do or have done, I still love you so much, just the same. And I’m so very proud of you for being honest. I love you honey.” Her consequence was a week of solitude with no friends and no phone.
It was hard to do, but somehow I was able to keep control and say those words.
By choosing this way of handling things, we won’t shut them down, and they won’t shut us out. They will see that we are approachable, and that no matter what they do, we will love them and accept them. I think we forget as parents that we are human, too. We can apologize and seek forgiveness when we fall short as parents. I have been in the situation where my daughter has shown me grace, mercy and forgiveness. Just because I’m the adult and I’m the parent, doesn’t mean I don’t and won’t mess up.
The way for our kids to “know better” is to teach and show them. Not by telling them they ought to know better. And again, sometimes they know darn well what they are doing and they do “know better,” but talking this way with them is condescending, and it doesn’t build anything up, which is our goal with them.
P.S. It’s been a great experience to write this blog. Thank you for taking the time to read, and for sharing it with others. I think my next article could be, TOP FIVE THINGS TO SAY TO YOUR CHILD!
About Gina Norma
Gina Norma grew up in St. Paul MN, and enjoys art, reading, traveling, thrift shopping, picnics, volunteering and spending time with her 17-year-old. One day she hopes to go to Italy, attend college, and solve world hunger. Gina says, “To me, parenting is all about building relationships with our kids and walking along side them — not trying to control them or use shame.” You can read Gina’s blog at www.walkwithyourteen.blogspot.com.