Three Things to Avoid Saying to Your Kids
1. "What's the matter with you?"
When you say this to your kid, you're implying that there actually is something wrong with them when, in reality, they are "people under construction" or PUCs. Their experiences are limited, their brains are immature, they're highly distracted with their immature brains because the world is new and exciting, and they're NOT YOU!
This kind of comment reflects the overall concept I want to emphasize here. Don't say things just because you are the one who is angry and frustrated. You're the teacher. Watch what they're doing and correct them. Use it as an opportunity to teach.
I know you don't want to hear this because of the pressure it creates, but the reality is that every interaction you have with your kid tells them something about the world, about you, about themselves, or the "combo" plate of all three. Yeah, you're THAT important.
And, if you've made this or other statements, apologize. Explain the feelings you are having so that this apology can, in fact, be a lesson, too. You've got the chance to influence them for only 18 years, probably less. Adulthood lasts 60+ years. Be a great teacher.
2. "You're smart".
This is too global of a statement. There are many different kinds of intelligence. Intelligence and abilities change dramatically over the course of a lifetime.
Me? I've got "word smarts", but in my family, I'm not allowed to pack the luggage. Ugh. All that visual planning...it's embarrassingly funny.
Telling a kid they're smart puts pressure on them to always be the best even if "it" is beyond their genetic endowment. A recent study proved that kids who are told they're smart are vulnerable to cheating in order to meet the expectations of their parents. Let's let education be a natural and relaxed opportunity to learn about and explore the world.
Focus on their attitude and effort or other features of their performance. Remember that traditional school may not highlight their strengths. It's the "generalist versus specialist" concept.
When they're students, they have to know a lot about a lot of different things. Once they move on to the "specialist" portion of their lives such as their careers, they're likely to shine because they're doing what they do best...whatever that is.
Just because they struggle in school does not mean that they won't be successful in life. Life requires both the same and different skills from those seen in the school setting. Make sure they've mastered the basics, not for just reading, writing and math, but of "how" to get "life done". Engage them in everyday tasks to teach sequencing, planning, organizing and sticking with a task until it's done. Time management is also a critical skill. Getting to a job on time and prepared is the first step to success on that job.
3. "You shouldn't feel like that."
Every single person on the planet has their own perception of events, situation, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.
Pretend that I slap you across the face...hard. When you gasp and say, "That hurt!" and I say, "You shouldn't feel like that", what is going to be your response? Rage...that'll be your response, and justifiably so. After all, not only have I violated you physically, but I deprived you of your feelings associated with it.
Under no circumstances are we in a position to tell anyone of any age "how" they are to feel. This phrase is a reflection of our sense of helplessness. As a result, we don't allow others to have their feelings.
The healthiest approach is to acknowledge others' feelings regardless of how uncomfortable they make you. Be a "mirror" to their emotions.
When it comes to your kids, if you don't validate their feelings, you'll lose their trust. That's a commodity you can't afford to lose.
Fraternity Hazing Leads to Death
The Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State University engaged in vicious hazing that resulted in the death of 19-year old Timothy Piazza. The surveillance camera footage captured the "pictures" of what happened. G-d only knows what this young man endured. It was horrific. A total of 26 frat brothers and pledges are being charged with 850 counts of serious crimes.
When I wrote the article about the kinds of topics to discuss with your kid before they go off to college, I foolishly thought that hazing was a thing of the past and is no longer an issue. I mean, after all, it's against the policies of universities, right? I won't do that again. I'm editing the article to include hazing. Ugh.
If you search his name, you'll have a better sense of "what" happened in order to educate your kids about the reality of "what" goes on.
Have a truly wonderful and thankful holiday. We'll chat next week.