Parenting: “7 ways to make sure what you say won’t damage your child” by Jean Guarino
We found a fine article about positive parenting written by Jean Guarino in the Sun-Times entitled “7 ways to make sure what you say won’t damage your child.” We have condensed and excerpted from that article below:
“Brutal words can hurt, and the damage inflicted on a child by a parent can torment him/her for life.”
The headlines are full of horror stories about children that have been physically abused, but we seldom read about the emotional abuse of children, which can be far more devastating. An assault on a child’s fragile emotions can destroy the child’s ability to love himself or herself, to get along with others, and to be free of self-destructive behavior.
At one time or another we all have heard a parent berate a child for some minor offense with words like,” You clumsy idiot! You can’t do anything right!” According to Guarino, when words like these are repeated often enough, the child’s sense of self-esteem plummets and he begins to agree with the parents’ assessment. He or she really is dumb, a jerk, an idiot, a moron.
If a child has no sense of “lovability,” the child may be satisfied to settle for the role of “loser.”
Dr. Earlene Strayhorn, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, says: “The problem of verbal abuse is very real and widespread — but difficult to document. You can’t record the damage done to a child’s psyche the same way you can photograph a black eye or broken arm.”
Here are seven parenting tips to make sure your words build up rather than destroy:
- Guard your vocabulary. There are some words that people in a family should never say to each other. Words like stupid, dummy, jerk, idiot, worthless, and freak have no place between parents and their children.
- Avoid absolute statements such as “You never . . .” Or “You always . . .” Practice good manners with your family. This doesn’t mean that you must avoid all conflict or that you can’t set limits.
- Separate the child’s actions from the child. Instead of responding to a tantrum with a barrage of abusive language, let the child know that you love him/her — but not his/her actions.
- When things happen that can set off an explosion, take time out. Wait. And then wait some more. When you hold your tongue until the heat of the moment has passed, it’s a lot easier to respond with love rather than anger.
- Be available. Be willing to stop and peek in on your child’s world. He or she will feel more valuable because of it. To improve your parenting skills, don’t start interrogating the minute the child walks in the door.What to say to a child. Instead of probing about his or her day, why not share your day? Instead of accusing, compliment.
- Active listening refers to a kind of listening and a response that does not judge, ridicule or order. The more we listen without judging, the more we help our children to accept their feelings, improve their problem-solving ability and increase their willingness to listen to us.
- Teach by example. Let your kids hear you acknowledge your mistakes. Dare to say, “I’m sorry” to your children when appropriate. Apologizing reveals that the truth is larger than your ego.
“If you can accept yourself in spite of your limitations, all the while working to be the best you can be, you’ve gone a long way to help your kids value themselves.”
We here at whatyousay.com think that’s positive parenting at its best.
Jean Guarino is a free-lance writer in the Chicago area.