Don’t say this.
Say _____ instead of ____.
Praise like this, not like this.
Memes, lectures, blog posts, books, videos.
It can get very confusing!!
At the height of self proclamation that I was an unschooler, I started questioning EVERYTHING I said to my kids. And, you know what happened? I started getting confused. I started getting permissive (mostly because I had no idea what to say that sounded more evolved than what I was used to saying.) I started getting resentful (because I wasn’t listening to my needs). I started getting STRESSED! So, I had to stop with all the crazy ‘word watching’
And, I admit, I’ve written a few articles about how we speak to our children! Because, it’s true that we should be mindful of what we say. For example, I was saying, “Be careful” like 800 times a day… So, I became more aware of how I used ‘be careful’, because I realised my kids were going to have to learn their limits under reasonable safe circumstances.
It’s important to speak with awareness, yes!
But when does it get to be too much?
When we feel guilty and confused about everything that comes out of our mouths… that’s when it’s too much.
Oops! Did I just use a mild threat to get my kid to brush her teeth? Well… yes, yes, I just did… But, do I always use threats? 99% of the time, no!
Oops! Did I just tell my daughter that I loved her painting because it’s beautiful?! Why yes, what a shallow empty crapload full of praise! Haha! But… it’s the first thing that came out and it felt true and it felt authentic and she was happy. And, then we hung the picture on the fridge and we moved on with our day.
It’s all about being natural with our children and realistic with ourselves.
It’s one thing to be mindful of what we say and to try and break that record playing of things that come flying out of our mouth without any awareness, but we also have to relax and be kind to ourselves.
A few months ago, there was a meme about what to say to children instead of ‘stop crying‘. While the post was really thoughtful and helpful, it also didn’t offer any suggestions for parents who struggle to listen to crying. And it didn’t explain that sometimes you just can’t have a crying child because it’s not the right time or place. I wondered how many parents were feeling guilty and stressed by that meme? That sometimes it’s really ok to get a child to stop crying, if there are other more urgent issues at hand. That sometimes crying in our children triggers something so deep and hurtful in us, that we can’t handle it and that we need a lot of inner work to be able to listen to crying.
All we can do is do our best. Children like when we act natural around them. They don’t want artificial words coming out of our mouths. Being authentic is something that our children love about their parents! At any given moment, there are the million variables in life! Sometimes it’s ok to say one thing, and other times, we have to say another thing. And, sometimes, I’ve found that saying no words at all is the most powerful thing I can do for my kids.
So, before you get too confused about the right way to communicate with our children, just relax. There is always imperfection in words! ALWAYS! Words have the ability to spoil everything, so don’t worry too much if you’re saying right or wrong! Just relax, be natural and have fun!
Photo: Art Baltrotsky