Monday, July 08, 2013

Definitely not in the Running for Parent of the Year

I have been meaning to get back to this neglected space ever since my frazzled nerves started recovering from the recently concluded summer vacation. And then yesterday, I read this article and really wanted to pen down my two bits on it.

10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Kids

The title just begs to be clicked. You just have to know what these terrible, unmentionable statements might be, all the while hoping that none of them have ever left your lips. A quick look at the article dashed any such hopes. Let's see how I did.

  1. "I know you can try harder." Check
  2. "Are you sure you need that second cupcake?" Check
  3. "You always…" or "You never…" Check
  4. "Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother? Check
  5. "I told you waiting until the last minute was a mistake!" Check
  6. "You’re the best at soccer!" Check
  7. "Don’t worry—the first day of school will be fine." Check
  8. "Because I said so!" Check 
  9. "I wish you didn’t hang out with Jack; I don’t like that kid." Check
  10. "That’s not how you do it! Here, let me." Check
Ladies and gentleman, that is a perfect ten! Now, if only, this weren't one of those things where a lower score, preferably a zero, is better... If I am to take this evaluation of my parenting seriously, I should probably just zip my lips and stop talking to my kids altogether. Or even better, start saving for the therapy they will clearly need after I am done with them.

But seriously though, am I the only one who thinks there's nothing wrong with saying most of these things to your kids? If our kids' self esteem is made of such flimsy glass that such harmless statements can shatter it, surely we have a bigger problem on our hands?

The only one I can sort of buy into is No. 8: constant comparison between siblings can't be advisable, especially when it comes to things the child has no control over - like intelligence or athletic ability - but I see no harm in asking them to model each other's behaviour when it comes to stuff like table manners or keeping their toy room neat. 

Don't even get me started on 'Because I said so', a statement that you might notice is suspiciously indistinguishable from this blog's name. There are times when I will painstakingly explain to my kids why something has to be done but there are other times I may not have the time, energy or patience to do so. And they have to be okay with knowing that sometimes they just have to follow my lead, without explanations, justifications or rewards on my part. This article does a better job of explaining this element of my parenting philosophy that I possibly could. 

Other than the sibling rivalry one, I simply don't agree that any of these statements could be seriously detrimental to a child's emotional health or well-being. They are not rude, they are not mean, they do not shame. Most of them are actually positive statements intended to guide, encourage or reassure children. Walking on eggshells around kids can't be good for them either.  

What do you think?

42 comments:

  1. It's one of those ridiculous articles written to excite comment, not make sense.

    But I'm glad it got you blogging!

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    1. Heh. It was so ridiculous that just sharing it on Twitter with a snarky comment was not satisfying enough :-)

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  2. Christabel6:14 pm

    Not sure where I heard this, but I so agree : "There's only one way to parent a child and that's your own". As applies to any other life choices we make.It will be interesting to see if a generation or two from now we will have a whole new set of social/emotional problems that can be traced back to all this blanket molly-coddling;-) Unless people begin to realize that the best way to build healthy self-esteem in your child is to have healthy self-esteem yourself in the first place.

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    1. I like that quote. I totally agree and object to the notion that there are some idealistic cookie cutter parenting techniques that can result in perfect kids.

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  3. Anonymous6:42 pm

    I think the target group for these generalized parenting advice stuff are the same as the target group for “how to keep your man happy” or “how to lose weight in 10 days”

    Read, get amused, Ignore, and move on.

    I can’t imagine what would be the reaction if the stuff I say to my child went public.

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    1. Very good point. This was a parenting equivalent of Cosmo article :-)

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  4. I think I agree with you!!!

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  5. Sometimes these articles are over-rated. Agree with you, comparing siblings only antagonize them further. Instead I show them pics of their younger years where they used to really enjoy each other's company, be patient with each other and stuffs. This does seem to have a positive effect on them.

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    1. Does that work? Mine were never patient with each other so I don't even have any of those to hark back to.

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  6. I think you should begin the day by spanking them in advance for whatever indiscretions they are going to commit later. My Dad's philosophy, think it worked rather well.

    :-) also, spanking has one more advantage - it'll make them stronger and nothing you say will really traumatise them after that.

    Zen

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    1. Er, it produced you... so I am not sure the conclusion that it worked rather well is so self-evident :-P

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  7. Anonymous1:24 am

    My primary rule from day one of parenting has been to avoid reading parenting manuals and the like. The "science" of proper parenting changes so radically from generation to generation. I totally echo your feeling that putting parents on egg shells is about the worst way to produce healthy kids. ~Kim

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    1. Hi, Kim :-)

      I think that is a very sensible rule. I have read quite a few and I don't think they have helped me much. (except Ferber, who gave me back my nights.)

      But then reading all this crap gives me blogging fodder, so I am not complaining ;-)

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  8. Hmmm. For the first time in all the time I have been reading you we are going to have to agree to disagree!
    I think these 10 sentances or rather most of them are not positive reinforcement. Perhaps this also depends on the age of the children. I once read somewhere (and I try and think of this when I remember - not easy when temper is frazzled - 'you have to fill them with such positive self esteem that when people are shooting holes into that bucket for the rest of their lives, the bucket never empties'. I'm all for not walking on eggshells but some of these sentences are just negatives if you hear them from a kids perspective. After a certain age I imagine they promote a healthy competitiveness and a reality check but not with young kids who have selective hearing at the best of times. Having said all that I am certainly not winning any parent of any year prizes!! And I have certainly thought them if not said them out loud (my selective memory!)

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    1. There is a first time for everything :-)

      I think we don't give enough credit to to kids - they are a lot hardier and their self-esteem is not as brittle as a lot of the current parenting thinking seems to suggest. And while I am not usually a fan of the 'we turned out fine' argument, our parents did say a lot worse to us and I don't think it made a dent.

      It just seems like there is an ever-increasing list of things that we must not say or do around our kids. And I am not sure most of it is necessary.

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  9. i love saying because i said so... and everytime i say that i remember your blog.

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  10. Hehehe..even i scored a perfect ten!!

    I feel as long as you are not discouraging a child, its ok to do all that it takes to "bring them on to the right path!";)

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  11. Totally agree, totally guilty of the same behavior! :) I feel the current trends that keep us on tenterhooks around our kids lest we damage them permanently is all rubbish. It inhibits free flow of thoughts and emotions. Nobody is like this all the time, these are moments in a conflicted situation. But when somebody calls it out, that's all we see and focus on, and forget all about the loving times that balance it out. I say, be natural, that's what we're best at anyway.

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    1. Yup, we are human after all, not robots that can be programmed to behave in a formatted, supposedly ideal way

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  12. Heh. That "10 things..." article and general mindset seems like exactly the thing Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was written in response to. Why does American pop sentiment swing to such extremes?

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  13. Anonymous2:18 pm

    Good to have you back...:-) and yeah, I'm a perfect 10 too! :-)
    JLT

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    1. Welcome to the club :-)

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  14. nice article posted...thanks

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  15. Hai ma! my kiddo is five and I am a failure as a parent :( Dont tell me you couldnt tell 'because I say so' to a kid..I mean seriously, I need some fun as a parent no?

    I could definitely be nominated as the worst parent of the year or something :(

    Sibling rivalry - well, I have only one kid, but I do remember getting bugged at my ideal-great-chid-super-student-son-every-mother-wants elder brother when I was younger. Then I just grew proud of him :)

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    1. Oh yeah, terribly irritating to get compared to a sibling - been there. And mine was the super student younger brother, mind you!

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  16. Totally with you Ro. Glad to have you back, please dont stop again.

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    1. Aw, thanks. I don't plan to stop. But then I never planned to stop earlier either... it just happened :-)

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  17. No kids, so no POV yet on the ten things but it sure is good to see you blogging. I like your style of writing and it's always nice to see Feedly/ Reader tell me there is a new post here!

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  18. I wish my mom had asked question no. 2. Then I could have said 'yes' and continued stuffing my face. It was more like 'that is enough cupcakes' or 'here is your cupcake' with no escalation options. Suspect am going to be doing the same.

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  19. Hey, nice to see you're back!

    I feel left out because didn't score a perfect 10. One of the things I haven't said is 'I wish you didn’t hang out with...' and that's becasue (clears throat) sonny boy may quote me to others :) Instead, I try and make him spend more time with other kids than the one I want to avoid.

    I had never thought I'd ever say 'because I said so' to my kid, but it's my go-to answer when I’m super low on energy. Nonetheless, I don't remember even one instance of my parents telling this to us three sisters. So, clearly I'm on a different parenting planet than them, but I have plenty of company.

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    1. The only reason why I said that was because he had started playing with the kids of the help in our complex and amongst other things I caught one of them with her hand in my purse and another one stealing Ayaan's drawing books.

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    2. Anonymous11:35 am

      The others I didn't feel as strongly about but I think this one did make me slightly uncomfortable. I don't think I would say that to my kids and my parents never said that to me and my siblings leaving us to figure out our own relationships. They did watch to make sure things were toxic or dangerous e.g. bullying but didn't interfere unless it was at those levels. And we did play with the helpers kids and things were fine. I found one of my friends stealing something at one point and it was a neighbours kid not one of the helpers kids. I figured it out on my own and I was around 8. Kids are pretty smart.

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  20. Anonymous4:36 pm

    Hmm --- I have made a perfect 10 too !! I lose my temper easily .. which is not good... so when I say some outrageous stuff .. or lose my temper really bad .. I do apologise and say I should not have done it and also emphasise where they were wrong anyways :). They understand ..that mommy has a short fuse .. my daughter is turning eight and finished her malory towers and said Mamma you are like Darrel Rivers :)which I found so amusing ... I also tell the kids that just like they are not perfect we are not either and we are learning and they need to talk to us abt their feelings etc so that we can take a corrective course ! :). It is BS to keep praising ur kid , keep asking for their opinion on everything starting from what to cook to how to dress up !! Involve them but don't let them rule the home :) .. thats my philosophy, we are a team but for now I am the boss :)- Preeti

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    1. I like that approach - you basically letting your kids know that you are human too. And that at the end of the day, you are the boss.

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  21. I agree with you, though numbers 3 and 4 are something I have never done to my kids and number 10 is something I taught myself (painfully) not to do. I agree a 100% that we shouldn't walk on eggshells around our kids and that they are resilient and can take most of this stuff. Some of it is actually good for them! I mean, how will my daughters learn time management if I don't remind them that they shouldn't have waited until the last minute?

    I don't use "You never.." or "You always..." with anyone. It tends to put people on the defensive and then they tune you out.

    4 was never done to me and I promised myself I would never do it to my kids because I saw J's parents doing it to him and saw how it hurt him.

    As for 10, I try to remember that if I do it for them, I will ALWAYS have to do it for them. I have gotten better at it with M.

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  22. I agree with you on the always/ never thing. I don't think it is harmful but like you said, it puts people on the defensive and that is something worth thinking about. Not harmful per se, but gets in the way of effective communications.

    On 4, I don't find anything wrong with saying stuff like 'Look how Ayaan has put away the toys he played with. How about you do the same?' As long as you are not comparing ability or personality, I think it is great to offer them each other's good behaviour as a role model.

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  23. I don't know, Rohini. I beg to differ on #4. Just comparing behavior can also generate resentment. Besides, every kid is different. Why would I expect my kids to behave the same way when they are two totally different individuals?

    M and S are poles apart when it comes to keeping their rooms clean. M cleans it up regularly, S only when she has piles so high that she can no longer jump over them. I do often get upset at the condition that S' room is in, but I have never told her to do what M does or given her M's example because I wouldn't like it if it were done to me.

    I do need to mention that all these points that the list mentions - I don't particularly consider them "harmful". Our kids are (or need to be) stronger than that.

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