Parents, mind what you say

Psychologist Inchara Shivaraam points out 5 things to watch out for, when interacting with children

By: Inchara Shivaraam



Regret after saying something that shouldn’t have been said, is what many parents go through. According to a clinical report published in July of 2012 in medical journal Pediatrics, psychological abuse can be as destructive to children's physical, mental and emotional health as some types of physical abuse.

However, parenting does not come with a pre-set manual. But there is certainly a way that parents can imbibe positive communication. Here are a few things that parents should avoid telling their kids, so as to not scar them.

Why can’t you be like!
Comparing is one of the biggest mistakes a parent can make. Comparing the child to someone in a negative way, or comparing siblings is one of the fastest ways to promote rivalry and jealousy among children. The first sentence to avoid is ‘Why can't you be like your brother or sister?’

Treat children as unique individuals and avoid comparing a child to his or her friends. Children are in the process of building identities and their self-esteem is easily damaged when they don't feel as good as their peers. Third, avoid comparing your child to yourself or the other parent. The question ‘Why can't you be more like me or dad?’

For example, ‘When this happened to me I was able to handle it better or it turned out fine for me!’ These statements quickly give a child the feeling that he/she is not good enough and diminishes the child’s feelings making them feel lonely. Instead, parents can ask how they feel and find commonality in a shared emotion, like telling them about a time they did feel scared or sad.
Older children are in the process of trying to grow into individuals, and a parent’s job is to help them do just that. Create a supportive environment to explore their thoughts and ideas to make decisions rather than forcing one’s thoughts on kids.
 
Stop! Go away!
Parents often dismiss their children when they're tired, annoyed, distracted or busy. But try not to use ‘Go away’.
Of course, it is difficult to have kids around always. But, instead of dismissing them, say ‘I need to be alone for a bit. Can you play in your room right now, and we'll spend time together later?’

Avoid saying ‘Stop wasting my time.’ Children need to feel that their ideas are important. Say ‘I'm interested in this conversation. Let's talk during dinner.’ Try not to say ‘I don't care.’ This statement implies that you do not value your children's thoughts or feelings. If you've made something what kids don’t like for dinner, you may be frustrated. Tell them that the family is having this tonight, and compromise by asking what they'd prefer tomorrow.
 
You’re bad! Stupid!
By calling names you’re insulting the kids. Just as we tell our children not to call people names, we shouldn't call our children names. If your child does something unwise, avoid using ‘stupid’ ‘brat’, ‘dumb’ or even ‘bad boy / girl’.

Children internalize insults. Name-calling is unlikely to help a child improve negative behavior. Instead, explain that the behavior is bad, not the child -- and talk about why the behavior is unacceptable so the child can learn. Talk about what are the consequences of a bad behavior, how it would affect him/her if repeated. Making kids feel worse about them will not help them build self-control or make them any tougher; it will do the opposite.

On the flip side calling the kids perfect always is neither a good idea.  If your child has low self-esteem, you might think it’s a great idea to praise them highly when they do something well. Not so, says Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State. Instead, it might make them anxious about having to meet high standards, which can lead to avoiding new challenges.

Boys don’t cry
First of all, it’s not true, says developmental psychology professor Christia Spears Brown: everyone cries sometimes. Second, crying can be a healthy response to negative emotions. Preventing boys from crying doesn’t make their feelings disappear; often, they are simply re-routed into anger and aggression, including fighting, and can lead to difficulty handling emotions later in life.
 
Do whatever you want
Parents who never say no to their kids are in for as many challenges as those who never say yes, according to parent educators Kim DeMarchi and Ann DeWitt. Children need to learn self-discipline and require limits and boundaries to stay safe and gain confidence. Without them, they may feel as though their parents don’t care about their well-being.
 
 
 
 

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