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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

        A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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        Last Updated on May 7, 2019

        How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

        How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

        Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

        The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

        The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

        Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

        People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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          They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

          Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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              1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
              2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
              3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
              4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
              5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

              How to Spot a Wolf

                Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

                Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

                A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

                A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

                Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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                Ask Questions, the More the Better

                There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

                When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

                Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

                They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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                Wolves Are Everywhere

                As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

                Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

                Reference

                [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
                [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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