Sunday, November 29, 2015

3 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Children


Young children live in a magical world where pretend feels real and it is hard to know where fantasy ends & truth begins.  Not yet executive functioning thinkers, they depend on adults to teach them logic, reality and truth.  Parents and teachers are their most trusted adults.  They believe what you say.  We know that young children have a less mature sense of humor.  When we attempt sarcasm, they do not laugh.  When movies for children include adult humor, we say, “It went over their heads.”  Why, then, do we expect them to understand when we are being facetious or sarcastic?  Or worse, perhaps our own fears cause us to say things in the guise of humor. 


When we attempt sarcasm, teasing or are testing beliefs about our own perceived weaknesses, we can damage children.  We can have an impact on their sense of self-worth.  Throughout my career, I have heard parents and teachers say things to children with no intent to damage but also without compassion and thought.  Children believe you are telling the truth.  Children integrate what you say to and about them so that your statements become part of their self-image.  When you are talking to children, don’t tell them:
  • “I do not love you.”  It sounds like an unlikely statement but I’ve heard parents say it.  A child wants a toy and starts to have a tantrum in a store.  The parent says, “That’s right – I’m mean because I don’t love you.”  Your eye rolling and sarcasm is lost on the child.  A young child says, “I love you, Mommy” and the mother replies with a wink, “Well I don’t love you.”  The child believes it.  Never joke about not loving your child particularly when that child is still a pre-operational thinker.  Children don’t begin to develop a more sophisticated sense of humor until at least age 8 and even after that, it’s not funny.  Love isn’t a joke, shouldn’t be a pawn in a game and is so rare in this world.  You are your child’s safe place and saying, “I do not love you” chips away at a child’s trust in his/her ability to be loved.
  • “I bet you can’t….”  Adults should be saying, “I believe in you” and “I know you can,” not “I bet you can’t.”  When we try to get children to perform a task by saying, “I bet you can’t clean up the toys” or “I bet you don’t know how to write your name,” we send a message of doubt rather than support.  Taunting children into action by expressing doubt in their ability makes them question their own capabilities.  Children might try to prove you wrong and perform the task but the damage has been done.  The challenge is from a place of negativity, a place of lack of faith in them.  Children need their most trusted adults to send messages of belief in them and faith in their abilities.  When we say, “I believe in you,” it boosts their perception of capability.
  • “Don’t cry” or “Don’t be scared.”  Crying is the appropriate physical reaction to sadness, a normal emotion.  Fear also a normal emotion and actually exists to protect us from danger.  When we say, “Don’t cry” or “Don’t be scared,” we are telling children that their feelings are not normal and not undesirable.  We all feel sadness and fear sometimes.  We all get angry, frustrated and upset.  It is our job to teach coping techniques, not to invalidate their normal feelings.  We should tell children who are crying or are scared that they will be okay and we are here to help them. 

Parenting is hard.  Working with children can be challenging.  It is important that our own frustrations or baggage do not seep into our conversations with children.  Negativity from adults breeds a negative self-image.  Be intentional and careful when you speak to children.  Remember that your words form their sense of self.
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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Will Your Children Forgive Your Mistakes?

Parents are not perfect.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  We get frustrated and yell when we shouldn’t.  We tease and hurt our children’s feelings.  We overreact, underreact, listen and then we don’t.  Even the best of parents who are thoughtful and intentional in their actions make mistakes.  We hope that our children will grow up, maybe have children of their own and realize we did the best we could.  We hope they will forgive us.  Perhaps, we can do more than hope.  We may be able to teach our children about forgiveness and about our own humanness.
  • When we are wrong, we need to sincerely apologize to our children.  From the time they are very young, they need to see us admit when we are wrong, thereby acknowledging that we make mistakes.  We need to say, “I’m sorry I should not have yelled.  I was wrong” or “I was mad and I did the wrong thing with you.”  Our children need to see us owning our errors in judgment or attitude so they know that we know there is no such thing as perfection.
  • We need to forgive our children.  When they cross our boundaries, children need to experience consequences.  Then, when they have dealt with the result of their actions, we need to tell them that we know that everyone makes mistakes and we understand.  We shouldn’t hold grudges, stop talking to them or otherwise continue to punish them in ways that are demeaning.  Be who you will want your children to be when they become adults.  Be forgiveness.
  • We need to forgive our own parents.  They are human, too.  They were not perfect when we were young.  Hopefully, like me, you had parents that did the best they knew how to do at the time.  Hopefully, your parents did not willfully neglect you or treat you badly.  They made mistakes but they were trying.  If we do not forgive our parents, how can we expect our children to forgive us?  Our children won’t have the most powerful example of forgiveness that exists – when you, a child, forgives the craziness of your own childhood.  Bitterness and resentment breed more bitterness and resentment.  Forgive your parents or don’t be surprised when your children don’t forgive you.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

3 Mistakes Adults Make When Speaking to Children

Children spend many years honing communication skills.  They watch and listen to everything we say and how we say it.   They imitate us in their dual quest to learn and to be more grown up.  Adults need to be intentionally interacting with children in ways that lift them up.  Be aware of your interactions and try to avoid these common mistakes:

Mistake # 1:  Using a sing-song or cartoony voice 
Use your real, adult voice when speaking to children.  Children need to learn proper intonation, inflection and vocabulary in order to become good communicators.  They also need to learn the difference between television comedy and more serious pursuits.  I have spent a career watch adults set the wrong tone and then get upset at the children for following suit.  If you speak like you are starring in a comedy, they will not take what you are doing seriously.   If you lower your vocabulary level, how will they learn new words?  Just talk.  No special voice needed.

Mistake # 2:  Mispronouncing letters and words like they do
Children are imitators.  They learn language by trying to duplicate the sounds they hear all around them from the adults in their lives.  They do that from infancy.  Cooing is the first attempt at the intonations in our language.  Many parents chuckle when they realize their toddler has repeated a phrase that adults in the household usually say.  When they mispronounce and then you imitate them, you’ve turned learning on its ear.  If you say it, they think it must be correct.  If they don’t hear the correct sounds from you, how will they learn them?  Don’t lisp with them or make R’s into W’s or say the wrong word.  Speak properly so they will self-correct.  It can be so cute when they exhibit childlike letter pronunciations or use incorrect words.  Smile.  Enjoy.  Speak correctly so they will learn to do the same.

Mistake # 3: Using facial expressions that don’t match what you are saying.
The majority of our communication is non-verbal.  Other people read our facial expressions, tone and body language to determine our real emotions and meaning.  The old adage says, “Seeing is believing.”  That isn’t only true of dubious events.  I will believe you are happy with me when you smile.  I will believe you aren’t actually interested in what I said when you yawn.  If you are not happy with your child’s behavior, your face needs to say so.  Smiling while say, “Don’t hit your brother” sends a mixed message.  It is okay to look sad or mad or frustrated.  When you do, you are teaching your children to properly read other people. 


Trust your child’s intelligence and capacity to learn from you.  Be their example of how adults speak in the same way that you try to be their example of morality, honesty and other pursuits that you value. 

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Copyright 2015 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.