As I was trawling FB the other day, a parenting article popped up in my newsfeed that immediately got my attention.
Now, I am a very big believer of simply moving on when you read something you don’t agree with on the internet. After all, we aren’t obliged to react to everything we come across. Who’s got time for that?
But this particular article really made me quite cross and I can’t let it go without sharing my thoughts.
The title of the piece was ‘The six most damaging things we tell our children every day’.
As a parent who is constantly worried I’m damaging my kids for life, this immediately got my attention. I’m very conscious that the things I say can have a lasting impact on my children.
And when I saw this article, with a title that says it is going to reveal the “most damaging things” I was expecting to read some pretty harsh stuff.
However, what I found were a collection of phrases that many parents would use on a regular basis. I’ll start off by staying I don’t disagree with all of them, there were some very valid points, but there were a couple that I took exception to. Such as:
1. Good boy/good girl.
I am totally across the evidence that says empty or generic praise isn’t helpful for kids, but to say this is one of the “most damaging” things a parent could say to their child is a pretty big call. I can think of much worse things!
Particularly, when parents tell their child they have been good, they usually follow up with the why (which evidence shows is the important part). Just this morning I said to my daughter, “You are such a good girl for getting dressed all by yourself, that helped mummy very much.” Could I have worded this in a way that is more conducive to my child’s self esteem and emotional development? To be honest, probably.
But the reality is, I am a busy mum with 3 kids, trying to get out the door in the morning. I love my kids, I do my best, and I can’t consult a psychologist every time I want to talk to my kids. My daughter got the message, she was proud that she got dressed by herself and helped me in the process.
2. Saying nothing
I want to honestly know, how many parents get away with ‘not making a conscious effort to connect’ with their children? My kids are my world, how could I not take an interest in their lives and their passions? I’m the one that facilitates most of them!
Of course, there are some pretty bad parents out there but I can guarantee those are not the people reading an article to learn how to be a better parent.
Look, I get what this article is trying to do – it is trying to remind us to be more mindful of what we say to our kids. Sometimes we have to challenge the script we have grown up with. The language that was used with us as kids stays with us, and it isn’t always the most conducive to our emotional wellbeing. We have to think about the impact repeating those things can have on our own kids.
BUT I don’t think it is helpful to make parents feel bad about saying things to their kids about looking pretty or being a good girl. We already worry about what we are feeding them, if they have too much screen time, too little time outdoors, too much structured activity, not enough intellectual stimulation.
We really don’t need anything else to feel guilty about.