3 Toxic Conversations You Need to STOP Having with Your Kids
You feel it coming. You’re at your breaking point as a parent. Your kids have pushed every single button you have ever had and are verging on demolishing your sanity. You have tried every parenting trick known to you and you are still getting nowhere with them. You have silently counted to 10 in your head and realize it’s way past the point of no return.
Your frustration is at an all time high and you lose your temper.
Every parent has been in your shoes and every parent has said something they instantly wish they could take back. We can see the immediate affect on our child as soon as the words leave our mouth. Here are three conversations you need to absolutely avoid and how you can recover from a conversation gone wrong.
1. What is WRONG with you?
Our kids make ridiculous decisions. Countless times. Their brains are still developing and they make impulsive choices with little regard for the consequences. As adults, we stand back, amazed as we watch the fall out from one implusive choice and as the chips fall, we ask our child “What is wrong with you?” Our kids reel from the harsh words and scramble to come up with a reason for the situation they have landed in.
The reality is this: nothing is wrong with your kid. NOTHING. They are still developing intellectually and literally do not have the physical nor intellectual capability to truly think out to the end the choice they are making. Now is not the time to flip sideways three times and demand an answer for a question that can not be answered.
How to recover:
Once the words have left your mouth, you can’t stuff them back in. You have to move to the inevitable apology for using such harsh words with your kid. If you were at your job and someone snapped “what’s wrong with you?” in reponse to a decision you had made, you would want an apology. Our kids deserve nothing less so apologize and rephrase your question. We want to understand why our kids do what they do. The only way to truly change their behavior is to talk it through with them and find a better way to make the next choice. Don’t ever be afraid to apologize to your kids. It makes us more human to them and so much easier to approach when they need someone to lean on.
2. Why can’t you be like….?
This question will be a self-esteem killer for any kid! Each child is a wonderfully made individual and unique in every way. They will NEVER be just like a sibling or a cousin or another child in their class. They will always be different than the next kid. That is the wonderful thing about being a human being. We are all incredible in our own way.
How to recover:
Apologize. Let your child know that you are sorry for expecting anything less than who they uniquely are and that you cherish and love who they are. Explain to them that you don’t expect them to be like their brother or sister. Assure them that you love them just as they are and the different ideas and skills they bring to your family. Give them your word that you will not expect anything less from them than what they are able to give.
3. I’m so angry with you I could….(insert parenting threat here)!
Often, we make snap decisions with our kids. Our nerves are frazzled. Our brain is in overdrive and we jump to conculsions. We throw out a punishment or statement and then we are forced to either back it up even when we regret it or to back pedal and look like we don’t stand by our decisions. Either way, it’s not a win-win situation for anyone. Imagine your words like a whip in your hands. Each harsh word is a snap against the emotions and heart of your kids. When our kids make disappointing decisions, we want them to understand the impact. We want them to truly get that decisions carry consequences and those consequences carry weight.
How to recover:
Don’t make threats you aren’t prepared to truly follow through with. Kids learn the boundaries very very quickly and they will know when you aren’t planning to carry through with your threat. Everytime you don’t carry through, you lose authority. Stop and think before you dole out a verbal consequence. If you blurt out you are going to ground them for a month, be prepared to carry out the lengthy grounding. If you throw out a consequence in anger and know you aren’t going to carry it through, you need to immediately restate your decision to the actual consequence. Or, state you are going to talk to the other parent and you will make a decision together about discipline. Kids are experts at finding holes in our armor and will dig until they get their way if they know the pressure will break you. Learn to take a moment before deciding discipline and stand by your decision.
The very best thing you can do for your relationship with your kids is to be clear and create healthy boundaries. When kids know where the boundary lies and each time they test it, the boundary doesn’t move, they will see a untied front from you at all times. Kids want to know where the edges are. They test and push to make sure the boundary is secure. When you stand time and time again in the same place, you show your child that you believe in your decision and no amount of push back from them will change your mind.