When I was a kid, there were certain things I hated hearing grown ups saying.
Now that I’m a parent, there are certain things I hate saying to my kids, because I know how frustrated they must feel. But I’m not sure what to say in place of those annoying old phrases, so I default to mother tongue.
I’ve been muddling through trying to think of more constructive ways to communicate things to my kids when i am frustrated with them, identifying the language that is demeaning, blaming, and unhelpful and replacing it with language that opens conversation and empathizes. However, when the framework in your head is full of blaming and combative language (many conservative writers teach a parents vs. kids style of ‘discipline’) it can be hard to know where to start.
But today i found this really great article i’m going to try to commit to memory, “Ten Things Not to Say to Your Kids”
The writer, Brenna, not only shares ten common, but generally unhelpful, phrases parents and other caregivers use, she also shares other ways of wording the important thoughts, and thinking through the problems.
“you make me so mad!” was a terrible thing to hear – i remember hearing my mom say it frequently and i always felt like such a horrible daughter.
But i catch myself in the middle of saying it sometimes. I know Aiden has a hard enough time dealing with his emotions (heck, i have a hard time dealing with my own). Blaming him for my feelings just dumps more of a burden on him and doesn’t help him behave. Brenna suggests instead “Train yourself to say, ‘I need a break right now because I am getting upset’ or “I am angry right now”. You can communicate your feelings to your children without placing the burden of cause on them.”
I’m learning a style of parenting that isn’t about ‘winning’ every battle in the name of love – like most christian parenting books and magazines I have read teach. There are other styles of parenting more about teaching children with love and respect (and a heckuva lot of patience), and helping them to learn what is right and how to respect others. My son Aiden is what some people might call ‘difficult’. Mike Pearl says children should be broken. It’s a common theme in many books – child training painted as a battle between mom and son, and you should break that willful child’s spirit. I do not want to break, crush, or defeat my child… I try to help my rather sensitive child understand himself and his very strong emotions and cope with them in constructive ways. We are on the same team and we are working together to learn to understand him, and to help him understand the world. I do the same for my younger son, Kieron. And one day when they are men, i hope they can face the world with bravery, kindness, and whole hearts.
(for parents who may be coming from a Mike Pearl style parenting philosophy and are looking for an alternative, Tim Kimmel’s book, Grace Based Parenting, was my diving board into a more cooperative style of parenting, and of living life in general.)