1. “It is going to be fine”
What to say instead: “Everyone experiences (a negative emotion or event) sometimes. I was once faced with the same problem too, and I overcame it through (a potential solution).”
While we all know that it is bad to be overly punitive towards children, it can also be detrimental to constantly reassure them that everything is going to turn out just fine. Depending on the context, this can sometimes come off as dismissive of the child’s feelings.
If your child is feeling nervous about their upcoming class performance, telling them that they will “be fine” doesn’t really do much to address their underlying anxiety. Instead, try normalising the negative experience by reassuring them that it is normal to experience those emotions. One way to do this is to share about your own experiences in overcoming similar challenges: “It can be intimidating sometimes to perform in front of a crowd. I used to perform in theatrical productions during my school days too, and I would always practice deep breathing before taking the stage. It helped a lot with my performance anxiety.”
2. “Don’t (do something)”
What to say instead: “Do (something else)”
Instead of telling your child to stop doing something that they are not supposed to be doing, instruct them on what they should do instead. Using a positive language would be more effective in curbing undesirable behaviours. For example, when your child is jumping on the bed, it is much clearer and more instructive to demand that they sit down or go to the living room rather than commanding them to stop jumping.
3. “Calm down”
What to say instead: “I know you are feeling (a negative emotion). It looks like you need some time away in your room. Let’s talk again when you are no longer feeling (the negative emotion).”
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could calm a child by simply verbally commanding them into a state of peace of mind? While the phrase is no doubt extremely concise and direct, recall that it is never helpful to brush off your child’s negative experiences, as mentioned above. Instead, acknowledge their feelings by saying things like “I know you are angry” before guiding them in addressing their agitation.
Sometimes, however, children misbehave because they crave our attention. In this case, it is better to give them a time-out or simply ignore them and pretend to be unstirred. This signals to them that their tantrum will not be rewarded.
4. “You are always like this/ You never (do something)”
What to say instead: “You appear to be having problems in (a particular area), let’s try (a potential solution).”
Avoid generalising your child’s misconduct, although it’s tempting to do so when we are feeling frustrated, and especially if they are repeated offenders! However, bear in mind that nothing good can ever come from shaming your child this way. Not only are accusations of this nature unfair to them—because nothing is always/never the case—you also run the risk of inculcating in them a victim mentality, which diminishes their sense of control over their life.
For instance, avoid saying things like “You are late for school again, why are you always late?” Instead, provide constructive feedback by coming up with practical solutions to address the problem together. Consider saying things like, “It seems like it’s the third time that you are late for school this month, is there anything that we could to help you be punctual?” and “Let’s try giving ourselves an additional 15 minutes to get ready for school in the morning.”
5. “What is wrong with you?”
What to say instead: “It is wrong to (behave a particular undesirable way). Next time, try (behaving in a more desirable way).”
Again, the question blows the child’s mistake out of proportion, such that individual misbehaviours are taken to reflect some sort of inherent flaw in the child’s being. Unfortunately, this guilt-inducing comment is a common response from exasperated parents when they fail to make sense of their children’s transgressions.
While the shame and guilt might motivate your child to rectify their behaviour in the short-term, it can lead to long-lasting, self-limiting beliefs of inadequacy which can persist into adulthood. Instead of globalising a child’s actions, we can instead address the undesirable behaviour in its specifics and focus on the ways to correct it.
For example, if you witness your child smashing their Lego model against the wall, you might be tempted to perceive it as an unhealthy expression of anger. However, it could also be the case that they are struggling to dismantle the Lego bricks and is attempting a less conventional method to take them apart.
Article provided by Annabelle Psychology (Source)