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?”
Apparently, I did utter those words sometime in my four years as a parent. (At least I left out the fucking part.)
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?”
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?
Ha! We use the “you’ve got to be kidding me” line, for sure. The others definitely are not our go to, but I’m afraid they’ve slipped here or there in time of despair. Certainly not enough to make an impression, I don’t think. But sometimes we reach the end of the line and it seems NOTHING that the books tell us to do actually improve a situation. Most often when I get to that point I emphasize that a specific behavior (asking over and over and over and over and over for the thing I’ve said “No” to, for example) is not something I like and that it will not change my mind to keep asking. That doesn’t always make him stop 🙂 Sometimes we feel entirely bewildered that our oldest will do something completely irrational, unsafe, or irritating. It’s really hard to keep a cool front in those situations. I usually end up explaining that he’s making really bad decisions and then implementing natural consequences. Maybe shifting the discussion to “behavior” instead of decision-making will make a difference?
“You’re making me crazy!” is a favorite around here. Partly because it allows me to diffuse something frustrating (poking your sister, not doing your homework after being asked six times, debating me about why flip-flops are totally fine in the snow) with humor. I’ll probably stick with that one.
Maybe it all depends how it’s said, what the context is, and what you say that follows that?
But yeah with the empty threat stuff. I’ve seen parents go through an entire litany of OR ELSE’s and all it teaches kids is that you’re not going to make good on any of them.
Guess the moral is we all suck and we all make mistakes, just like our kids. Funny how that works!
Amy | Delineate Your Dwelling
Goodness, this is so hard! I try to relate my comments to their actions by saying things like, is that a wise choice? or that doesn’t seem to be a good choice. That way, I’m not saying NO and STOP IT all the time, but associating actions with choices. DEFINITELY a work in progress though!! Great post.