Those meerkats sure are cute, huh?
Why meerkats you ask? Because today we are talking about something that makes us all feel a bit uncomfortable. We all say things that we know could be phrased better and maybe even regret after-the-fact.
It’s the worst when we do that to our children.
Using pictures of my kids — or any kids or moms — felt weird. So for fun, I went with meerkats. Because even in tough discussions, meerkats bring the happy.
Anyway, I was inspired to write this after reading about the topic at Lifehacker. I thought it was a good reminder for me and thought I’d share. What better way than with pretty graphics?
Sure, our kids are geniuses. That’s a given. 1 of 7
But repeatedly telling them how smart they are actually can make them afraid to challenge themselves in the future, in case they fail and that their parents will STOP thinking they are smart.
Children are good. But telling them that can be tricky. 2 of 7
Just like telling a kid that they are smart, telling them they are good after they perform a desired task or behave in a certain way can make them fearful of losing that status. Instead, parents should them how proud they are of their behavior.
Similarly, when they misbehave, parents shouldn't tell them they are bad. Parents should explain that they are disappointed in their child's behavior. This may seem like a small point but it is crucial to clarify the difference between bad behavior and bad character.
Ugh. This is a hard one. 3 of 7
"I promise we'll get ice cream this weekend," one says... and means it. But then something unexpected comes up and the promise can't be kept. Guarantees with kids (and really, with anyone) should be kept more open, "I'll do everything I can to make sure we get ice cream this weekend." Because seriously, life sometimes gets in the way.
Never lead with a theoretical question just to get a confession. 4 of 7
And even if kids don't know what "theoretical" means, they know they are being set up when someone asks them if they've done something they obviously have done. In a moment of fear they might even lie, compounding the problem.
Instead, adults should consider being frank with a child and ask them why they did it. This often extracts that confession as well as some information as to why they misbehaved in the first place.
Never shame children. NEVER. 5 of 7
Shame tells a person that they are inherently flawed, that at their core they simply are not worthy. No child should ever feel that. This is in contrast to experiencing guilt, which is a productive emotion that helps guide our actions. Brene Brown deserves credit for the important shame vs. guilt distinction (and I can't recommend her work enough).
THIS? Is the worst. 6 of 7
Saying, "Whatever" is dismissive and tells the recipient that one can't be bothered with them, they just aren't worth the time and explanation would take. It leaves a person feeling a bitter sense of rejection and doesn't teach any positive lessons.
Or stupid, or any other mean adjective. 7 of 7
In the South, I often hear, "Don't be ugly to your friend." Addressing the behavior is a good thing, but adding in random negative adjectives? Not so smart. Hold those mean words because they sting far more coming from you than intended. Instead, one should explain precisely what the child is doing that is wrong.
And when you mess up, and you will unless you’re perfect (we all do), the absolute best thing you can do is apologize to your child. “I’m sorry, I was angry and I shouldn’t have said that. I’m human just like you and make mistakes, too.”
Because what you teach them in that moment might be the most valuable of all lessons… that they don’t have to be perfect, and that making mistakes is part of the ride.