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Last Updated on December 28, 2017

8 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids (Even if You Have a Good Intention)

8 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids (Even if You Have a Good Intention)

Some kids want to grow up to be pro basketball players or astronauts; my daughter on the other hand wants to grow up to become a unicorn. Lots of parents still tell their children often that they can grow up to be whatever they want to be. That’s all well and good unless your daughter wants to become a unicorn or your son is 16 years of age, only 5’5″, and wants to play for the Chicago Bulls. If your 16 year old has unrealistic pro sports dreams without a backup plan such as a college education or goals outside of these pro sports dream, then you are failing them as a parent by saying “you can be anything you want to be”. The odds of my daughter becoming a unicorn when she grows up are zero. I can respond with “that would be so much fun to become a unicorn, but we don’t get to change species when we grow up, although it is fun to pretend to be a unicorn now though”.

Reality and truth need to go hand in hand with your advice to your kids. Otherwise, your 16 year old with dreams of becoming a pro ball player may end up becoming a 25 year old living in your basement and delivering pizzas for a living.

Don’t dole out poor advice and absolutes that simply are not true in the real world. Evaluate the advice you are giving your kids: Is is true or realistic? Is it helpful or harmful to them in the longterm?

It is time to stop using antiquated words of advice with our children that are actually doing more harm than good. Turn those antiquated phrases around by using thoughts, ideas, and advice that can actually work in the real world and help them, not harm them.

Below are some of the common words of advice that parents are still using today that need to stop, along with suggestions regarding what should actually be said.

1. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

This is some of the worst advice parents can give to their children. Children actually learn more from their parents’ modelling of behavior, than what they say to them. If parents are modelling poor behavior then saying “do as I say, not as I do”, their words will have little to no impact. Instead, it is better to acknowledge their shortcomings if they see their child following in their footsteps with a particular bad habit. If parents feel compelled to use such a phrase, perhaps it is time to reassess their own habits.

For example, if I tell my daughter not to yell at her brothers, yet that is what I am doing every day to her and her brothers, perhaps it is time to look myself in the mirror and work toward meaningful change in stopping my own yelling first, so I can model better behavior. It is hard to teach someone how to change their behavior if you can’t or won’t do it yourself. Work to be an example of how you want your child to act, as you are the most influential model in their life. Actions speak louder than words.

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2. “Everything will be ok.”

How do parents know everything will be ok? Parents are not fortune tellers, so sometimes it’s best not to use that phrase, especially when it is not helpful.

If your child’s best friend is dying of Leukaemia, it’s unrealistic and actually harmful to your child to say “everything will be ok”. Often to a child that phrase is internalized that things will turn out how they want them to turn out. To this child, that phrase can thus be interpreted in their mind that their friend will be cured and coming back to school soon. You don’t know if that is the case, especially in a situation where things are deemed “terminal” of “highly unlikely”.

Don’t give your child false hope, as you will be seen as a liar. It also inhibits their ability to process the situation. Instead of making yourself out to be a liar, be realistic. Let your child know gently and sensitively the reality of what is possible or likely going to happen. However, you can also allow them to keep hope alive at the same time. Don’t try to delude them of the gravity of the situation by saying “everything will be ok” if that is clearly not the case.

3. “Boys don’t cry.”

    Photo credit: Source

    I don’t know who made up this lie, but it is a doozy. When parents say this to their sons, they are denying them their feeling, sending them the message that they need to hold back their emotions, and the society ends up with a whole lot of men who repress their emotions.

    For decades parents have been telling their sons that they can’t cry. Why not? Repressing your emotions is not healthy emotionally in the long run, nor is it good for relationships. Allow your boys to turn into men who can appropriately show their emotions, including crying.

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    4. “Push through the pain.”

    This lie can do actual physical harm to children. I was a runner for years and I had a coach that used to say “you need to run through the pain”. I was just a teen, but took those words seriously. I pushed through the pain and ended up with eight stress fracture and missing state finals with the team as a result of the injuries. Pain is a way our body signals to us that something is not right.

    Discomfort is one thing, but to tell a child to push through actual pain is harmful. Instead, teach your child to listen to the signals from their body. Is it discomfort they are feeling or is it actual pain? Teach them to distinguish between the two and to get help if they are truly injured.

    My hobby of running was ruined for a lifetime. Other athletes have done the same, creating so much injury in their body that they can never again enjoy their hobby. Don’t kill your child’s love for a hobby or sport by making it no longer possible because of a permanent physical injury.

    5. “You can be anything you want to be.”

      Photo credit: Source

      This was discussed above in the article. A better approach to this topic of their future is to be an encouragement to your child in regard to their hopes and dreams, but also the voice of reality (in a kind and sensitive manner).

      As a parent, help them stay grounded in reality so that they can set life goals and ambitions that are attainable. You don’t want them to feel totally and utterly like a failure in life when they learn they are not making the pros with no other goals or prospects for the future even entertained. Don’t squash dreams, but help them also think about realistic and attainable goals, even if you have to present the idea to them as a “backup plan”. At least it will get them thinking about various, more realistic options, rather than one lofty goal that has less than a 1% chance of happening.

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      6. “Just be yourself and everything will be fine.”

      This one can be especially hard on kids socially. Sometimes their behavior or actions are not socially accepted or welcomed by friends. If your daughter has a habit of “giving her friends a piece of her mind” every time they upset her, because that is just who she is as a person, then perhaps it’s time to make some adjustments. Just being yourself does not always have the best outcome. Sometimes it has negative outcomes. Your daughter will lose friends by giving them a piece of her mind on a regular basis.

      Not all of our propensity traits are good ones. Sometimes we need to learn to manage the bad ones. More harm than good will be done in your daughter’s social circle if being herself alienates people. Let your child know it’s ok to be themselves unless they are doing something illegal, unethical, immoral, or harmful to others.

      Being ourselves is not always acceptable to others and that is something that can help us decide if we need to make changes in ourselves or find new friends. The choice for change is up to each individual, which is more empowering than the falsehood that if you act like yourself all will be ok.

      7. “Focus on the future and you will be a success.”

      Whatever happened to allowing kids to be kids? It can do more harm than good when parents push their kids toward success by “focusing on the future”. Children in elementary school do not need to be thinking about what sports and extra curricular activities will help them get into a great college. So many adults and young adults self medicating with alcohol and drugs just because they have been stressing about their future since they were small children.

      There will always be a future, stressing about it in childhood is more likely to lead to earlier burnout. It is also more likely to push the child toward bad habits and choices in order to self medicate and relieve stress. Don’t push your child toward bad choices or burnout by stressing them out about their future. Allow your child to be a child and to experience the present.

      Psychology Today discussed research that found happy people were more successful in life.[1] Research also showed that happier people are better equipped to handle stress in life. Allow your child happiness by letting them live in and enjoy the present. Don’t put their childhood in fast forward by having them focus on the future. Happy children and people live their lives in the present and not the future. Children will be more successful if you allow them the joy of living in the present and not the future.

      8. “All you need for success in life is to work hard.”

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        Photo credit: Source

        This piece of advice is a farce that some families embrace for generations. Just because someone works 16 hours a day and does their job well doesn’t mean they are going to be a success. People can be working at a dead end job with no chance of promotion. Working smart will give you a better chance at success than hard work alone.

        Working hard is a good trait, but it needs to be paired with working smart. Say a family has two children. They grow up and one believes that hard work is the key to success so he stays in the same job working up and getting promoted, yet he works 16 hours a day and can only be promoted so far in the company because he doesn’t have any special skills. The other child believes in working smart. This person tries to take courses and equip himself with new skills. He selects a career field that is in high demand. He continues to climb higher in his career field afterwards. The second sibling has more opportunities because he isn’t limited because of not having any skills. The second sibling sees a career field that is in demand, so he equips himself with skills needed in that field. Both have worked hard, but the second worked smarter because they aren’t going to dead end in their career because of not having a degree.

        This is just an example. Not all careers and jobs require special skills or a college education, but you need to help your child figure out what their idea of success in their desired career looks like. Help them see what decisions need to be made, to make smarter moves toward achieving that goal. Work smart to achieve, not overworking yourself into a dead end.

        Every Single Piece of Advice Parents Give Does Matter

        Many parents may have recognized themselves in some of these advice scenarios. Most parents mean well, as they want their children to grow up to be successful and happy.

        However, you can now see that some of the advice parents are giving needs to be changed. Recognizing the problem is the first key toward change. Next is developing a plan for what you will say the next time the subject arises.

        Having a plan for what you will say will help you be prepared to provide helpful advice that will benefit your child in the long term. Write down your new found advice so that you can reflect and remember the wisdom or advice you want to pass onto your child to help them.

        Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

        Reference

        [1]Psychology Today: Happy People Succeed

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        Dr. Magdalena Battles

        Doctor of Psychology

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        Published on July 13, 2018

        Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

        Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

        What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

        By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

        When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

        In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

        Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

        What is attachment theory?

        Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

        The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

        His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

        The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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        When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

        Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

        How attachment develops

        Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

        Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

        The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

        It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

        In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

        Different types of attachments

        In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

        • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
        • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
        • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
        • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

        What attachments mean to adults

        So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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        As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

        • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
        • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
        • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
        • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

        Here’s where it gets really interesting:

        Move towards secure attachment

        The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

        Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

        The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

        If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

        The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

        Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

        How to restructure your thoughts

        Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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        For the Avoidant Style

        As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

        Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

        Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

        Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

        Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

        If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

        Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

        And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

        For the Anxious Style

        For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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        First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

        Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

        For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

        The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

        Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

        When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

        For the Secure Style

        Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

        Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

        Strive towards Secure Attachment

        As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

        • Positive self esteem and self image
        • Close and well adjusted relationships
        • Sense of security in self and the world
        • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
        • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
        • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
        • Trust in self and others
        • Close, intimate relationships
        • Strong determination and problem solving skills

        If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

        It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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