I delivered a speech about Parenting at the local Toastmasters club last week. One thing I talked about was the simple truth about parenting. Parenting is hard!. Parenting is a privilege which we enjoy and its a big responsibility that we take on board. If parenting were a job, our job titles would be Chief Life Architect. This is because, as parents we get to shape the life of a human being. What we do with our kids plays a very important role in how our kids will see life. At times its scary. What if we get it wrong? What if I don’t instill the right values, what if I can’t cope?. These are thoughts which haunt almost all parents from time to time. Its understandable because, as parents we have a very strong influence on our kids and what they turn out to be in the lives.
From the time children are born till about 3 years of age, they only see their parents and learn most of the things from their parents. Even after that kids pick up things from their parents more than their friends or others. It is well known that kids don’t learn what you tell them, but they learn what you show them. However many times the words we use can have a profound impact on the psychology of the child. Here are 5 things I have learnt you should not tell your kids
I used to make this mistake every time my son would try to do something and fail at it. Our natural tendency is to say “Dont worry, Its easy, You can do it”. While this may seem very normal on the surface, what this does often is to frustrate the child even further. He thinks if it is easy, then why can’t I do it? We know that young kids are not very open to any kid of logical reasoning. If your kid is those types who cant seem to handle failure, then telling him its easy is not going to help much. It may put him down rather than providing him encouragement. This does not mean you tell him that its very difficult , and he should try something else. Rather try and explain to your kid that it may seem difficult in the beginning but he will get it with practice.
Stop being a girl/boy
I’ve seen many parents tell this to their kids and I can’t think of anything that is more detrimental to their opinion about the opposite sex. When your child does something and you ask him or her questions like: Are you a girl/boy?, what this is telling your kid is that whatever they do is not acceptable for them and is only done by the opposite sex. For example if your boy is crying, dont tell him “Stop crying like a girl” or “Stop being sissy”. Think about it. Where did you learn that boys should not cry. Most probably from your own parents. They probably heard it from their parents. Who on earth decided that boys should not cry. If boys were not meant to cry why would we have tear glands in the first place. Kids demonstrate their feelings in different ways and when they are young crying is one of the ways they do that. Also by constantly comparing with the opposite sex, you are forming a view that the child will develop about the other sex which they will carry into their adult life as prejudices.
You can do it
These days theres a lot of talk about positive thinking and motivating our kids to become their best. While I’m not against this, I feel this has been stretched too far. We seem to ignore reality and build false hopes and expectations for our kids. Just like saying “Its Easy” does not help, saying “You can do it”, does not necessarily get you the desired results. Instead of your kid getting motivated, it may cause him to feel more disappointed. This is because he believes that you believe he can do it and when he can’t meet upto your expectations, he feels more disappointed. Of course we all want our kids to achieve things in life and go on and fulfill their dreams (and sometimes yours). However many times we push our children in our efforts to help them deal with peer pressure and to keep then ahead of the rest. However instead of hollow motivational and pep talks, teach your children the values of discipline, dedication, perseverance, patience and practice. These will do far more good for your kid in the long term over short term benefits.
You may like reading : Help your child deal with peer pressure
Look at your brother/sister
For all those who have more than one kid, this is a very common thing. While we have understood the need not to compare with our neighbours kids, we are yet to learn that the same applies to siblings. You already known that no two people are the same. The same applies to kids. No 2 kids are the same. So why compare your child with their sibling? Doing this has the biggest drawback that the child may develop an inferiority complex and may even start hating their sibling. If you constantly compare your kid to their brother or sister, they feel that you love their sibling more because you seem to like what their brother or sister do more than what your other kid does. It would not be an over statement that this is probably one of the strongest reasons for sibling rivalry.
Its’s OK. I still do this and I feel like kicking myself everytime I say this. Every time our kids are unable to do something or fail at something, our normal tendency is to say “Its Ok, I’m sure you will do better next time” or “Its Ok, This is not the last time you play” or anything else. While the intentions behind these remarks are well intended, it could have potential damaging effects on children. You are probably thinking, what wrong with some words of support for our kids. What could two simple words do to a kid. Theres nothing wrong with saying “Its Ok”, What’s important is what you say “Its Ok” for. In most cases you are basically sending a message to your child that its ok that he lost or he did not get what he want or whatever it is. In other words you are telling them that its ok that they lost or failed. This is very different to saying “Its Ok” to how your kid is feeling at the moment. So you may say something like “I know you lost the game and you are feeling horrible about it. Its Ok to feel that way.I’m sure the next time you will put on a much better show and will increase your chances of winning” What you are essentially doing is acknowledging what your child is feeling rather than acknowledging the actual act. It makes a big difference on how your child receives this.
In recent times, family life has changed dramatically. At one time parents were in charge and children followed their lead. Now in many households it seems to be the other way around. I come from a mixed school of thought. While I don’t believe in extreme discipline, neither do I subscribe to the modern parenting movement around childrens self esteem. This self esteem movement has done little more than making children feeling entitled, as if the world owes it to them. It has also left many young adults ill prepared for the inevitable criticism and the occasional failures in life.In summary your role as a parent is that of a guide/mentor and no more. As a guide you should be loving and reasonable but at the same time not shy away from your role to prepare your children for life’s challenges. Here is an nice article on Disciplining.
Being a parent can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope. Every step, every word, every action, seems to have an impact on your kids. One thing I can tell you is despite all this madness that comes with being a parent, it is indeed a privilege to be able to be the Chief Life Architect of someones life. Happy Parenting!
Do you have tips you have learnt and want to share? Leave your comments below
If you are interested, here is my speech from ToastMasters on Parenting