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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 October 30, 2019

        How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

        How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

        Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

        In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

        Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

        You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

        What is the Stages of Change Model?

        Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

        Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

        Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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          The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

          The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

          The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

          The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

          1. Precontemplation
          2. Contemplation
          3. Determination
          4. Action
          5. Maintenance
          6. Termination

          How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

          To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

            Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

            Stage 1: Precontemplation

            At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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            For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

            Stage 2: Contemplation

            At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

            You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

            The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

            Stage 3: Preparation

            At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

            Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

            Stage 4: Action

            When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

            Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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            Stage 5: Maintenance

            After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

            Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

            Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

            Stage 6: Termination

            Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

            However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

            How long does each stage take?

            You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

            So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

            The limitations of this model

            The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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            Require the ability to set a realistic goal

            For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

            If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

            Difficult to judge your progress

            The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

            Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

            Conclusion

            The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

            While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

            Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

            Reference

            [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
            [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
            [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
            [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
            [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
            [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
            [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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