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5 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids and What to Say Instead, Part 2

5 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids and What to Say Instead, Part 2

We all say things to our kids that we later regret, and sometimes the things that come out of our mouths are just automatic and unconscious. You know, like the times when you realize you’ve just said the exact same thing that your mother used to say to you?! Other times, we might think we’re helping to build them up when we’re actually hurting our children’s confidence. A few weeks ago I wrote 5 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids and What to Say Instead. Here are a few more key phrases to look out for and suggestions for alternative language that will build the confidence, emotional awareness, and connection you want for your kids.

1)   You’re so smart–

When we tell kids they’re smart, we think we’re helping to boost their self confidence and self-esteem. Unfortunately, giving this kind of character praise actually does the opposite. By telling kids they’re smart, we unintentionally send the message that they’re only smart when they get the grade, accomplish the goal, or produce the ideal result — and that’s a lot of pressure for a young person to live up to. Studies have shown that when we tell kids they’re smart after they’ve completed a puzzle, they’re less likely to attempt a more difficult puzzle after. That’s because kids are worried that if they don’t do well, we’ll no longer think they’re “smart.”

Instead, try telling kids that you appreciate their effort. By focusing on the effort, rather than the result, you’re letting a child know what really counts. Sure, solving the puzzle is fun, but so is attempting a puzzle that’s even more difficult. Those same studies showed that when we focus on the effort — “Wow you really tried hard on that!” — kids are far more likely to attempt a more challenging puzzle the next time.

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2)   Don’t cry–

Being with your child’s tears isn’t always easy. But when we say things like, “Don’t cry,” we’re invalidating their feelings and telling them that their tears are unacceptable. This causes kids to learn to stuff their emotions, which can ultimately lead to more explosive emotional outbursts.

Try holding space for your child as he cries. Say things like, “It’s OK to cry. Everyone needs to cry sometimes. I’ll be right here to listen to you.” You might even try verbalizing the feelings your child might be having, “You’re really disappointed that we can’t go to the park right now, huh?” This can help your child understand his feelings and learn to verbalize them sooner than he might otherwise. And by encouraging his emotional expression, you’re helping him learn to regulate his emotions, which is a crucial skill that will serve him throughout life.

3)   I promise–

Broken promises hurt. Big time. And since life is clearly unpredictable, I’d recommend removing this phrase from your vocabulary entirely.

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Choose instead to be super honest with your child. “I know you really want to have a play date with Sarah this weekend and we’ll do our best to make that happen. Please remember that sometimes unexpected things come up, so I can’t guarantee that it will happen this weekend.” Be sure you really are doing your best if you say you will too. Keeping your word builds trust and breaking it deteriorates your connection, so be careful what you say, and then live up to your word as much as humanly possible.

One more note on this, if you do break your word, acknowledge it and apologize to your child. Remember, you’re teaching your kids how to behave when they fail to live up to their word. Breaking our word is something we all do at one time or another. And even if it’s over something that seems trivial to you, it could matter a lot to your child. So do your best to be an example of honesty, and when you’re not, step up and take responsibility for your failure.

4)   It’s no big deal–

There are so many ways we minimize and belittle kids feelings, so watch out for this one. Children often value things that seem small and insignificant to our adult point of view. So, try to see things from your child’s point of view. Empathize with their feelings, even as you’re setting a boundary or saying no to their request.

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“I know you really wanted to do that, but it’s not going to work out for today,” or “I’m sorry you’re disappointed and the answer is no,” are far more respectful than trying to convince your child that their desires don’t really matter.

5)    Why did you do that?–

If your child has done something you don’t like, you certainly do need to have a conversation about it. However, the heat of the moment is not a time when your child can learn from her mistakes. And when you ask a child, “Why?” you’re forcing her to think about and analyze her behavior, which is a pretty advanced skill, even for adults. When confronted with this question, many kids will shut down and get defensive.

Instead, open the lines of communication by guessing what your child might have been feeling and what her underlying needs might be. “Were you feeling frustrated because your friends weren’t listening to your idea?” By attempting to understand what your child was feeling and needing, you might even discover that your own upset about the incident diminishes. “Oh! He bit his friend because he was needing space and feeling scared, and he didn’t know how else to communicate that. He’s not a ‘terror,’ he’s a toddler!”

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I hope these suggestions are helpful for you and I would love to hear about your experiences! Please leave me a comment!

And have a fabulous day, Shelly

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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