Real Parenting: Fruitful Words

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Credit: Priscilla Du Preez

Fruitful Words

by SM Ford

As a parent, or even a grandparent, it’s so easy to get irritated with childish things. Especially when we’re busy or mentally occupied. I’ve said and heard statements such as “How many times do I have to tell you?” and “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.” Or “You never pay attention.” and “Do you always have to be so annoying?”

But are those the best words? Do they encourage or discourage a child? Maybe he really does need to hear it one more time. You forget things too, right? Or maybe he needs to be told in a more positive way, “I know you’re responsible enough to do _________.” Or perhaps a child needs the why. “Do you know why I’m asking you to do this?” I sure had my kids say no to that question, which allowed me to explain. Or maybe she’s being annoying because she just wants your attention. Taking a minute to engage may be all that’s needed in that case.

“Never” and “always” adds so much more emotion, too. How about, “Please listen to me,” or “Do you need something?” instead.

According to Melanie Greenberg Ph.D., “Calling a kid ‘selfish,’ or implying there is something wrong with her because she’s childish, is also harmful. Kids internalize these negative labels and begin to see themselves as ‘not good enough.’" (Read more of the article here.) I love this example from the movie, Hook. The dad says, “You’re acting like a child.” The child’s response is perfect, “I am a child.”

However, most kids don’t have a script to follow when parents are unfair.

This blog post, “It’s Science. Dropping negative language improves child behaviour.” by Alana Pace, explains the concept well.

In an article on, Katherine Lee said, “…imagine yourself recording your interactions and playing back the digital images and sound. Would your voice sound patient and loving? Would you seem engaged and interested in what your child was saying?”

What do you want him or her to remember? Mom was always crabby or Mom was patient with me. Dad always took time with me or Dad always ignored me. When your kid is pretending to be the mom or dad, listen in and you may get some insight into how you are seen.

Of course, none of us is perfect, but planning some responses ahead of time can help us come across as more positive. And that’s a win for everyone.


About the Author

SM Ford at Mustard Seed Sentinel

SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, who has also lived in the Midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey).

She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.

Sue likes traveling and animals, especially those in the cat family.

She loves kids and writing. You can find out more about her at her website or on Twitter.

You can read Sue’s “Real Parenting” column on the 4th Thursday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.

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