Before I became a mother, I’d joke about how I’d discipline any future kids. If they misbehaved in public, for example, I’d pull them aside and, while attempting to keep my cool, ask, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Obviously, this was not a parenting technique I decided to actually employed when Levi was born.
But a few months ago, Levi surprised us all when he responded to a situation by saying, “Are you kidding me?” His delivery was hilarious, especially his emphasis on the word kidding. Obviously, we cracked up, so now he says it all the time. Sometimes he even twists it around, asking, “Are you not kidding me?”
Apparently, I did utter those words sometime in my four years as a parent. At least I left out the fucking part.
I recently came across an article about three things to never say to your kids and quickly scanned the list to make sure I wasn’t guilty of spitting out any of these psychologically harmful phrases to Levi or Asa:
- “You’re making me crazy!”
- “What’s wrong with you?”
- “You’d better ____ or else!”
Thankfully, “Are you kidding me?” didn’t make the list.
So what’s so bad about them? According to Psychology Today, those phrases are intended to motivate a child to change behavior using guilt, shame, and fear, respectively. By doing this, we parents are telling our children that they are the problem, rather than their behavior.
Instead, we need to focus on the behavior explicitly using words like:
- “I don’t like that behavior.”
- “I don’t like it when you ____.”
- “When you ____ , I feel _____.”
The article goes on to explain that we need to tell our kids why a behavior isn’t okay and to discuss what they could do differently next time.
Threatening to take away a privilege like TV after preschool or music in the car is definitely something I do as a parent. (Don’t we all?) Moving forward, I’m going to try to be more cognizant of not using fear as a motivator, and I’m already very aware about avoiding shame.
However, avoiding guilt is going to be hard for me.
I am a Jewish mother, after all.
Case in point: I must’ve used the phrase “You’re driving me crazy!” at some point because, the day after reading that article, I heard Levi say it to the dog.
Objectively, the dog was being a nuisance, but still. Probably not something a four year old should probably be repeating.
How do you handle situations when your kid’s behavior is less than ideal? Are you working on any parenting techniques that might benefit the rest of us?