We talk constantly with our kids to communicate caring, correction, or concerns. Our intentions are laudable, but the impact may be very different from our goal.
Here are some bad things said by loving parents to their kids:
1. “Failure is not an option.” This phrase from the movie “Apollo 13” may sound inspirational, but it makes no sense. We experience distress and failure every day. Failure is not only an option, but it’s an essential part of living. We shouldn’t be advising kids to avoid failure, but rather helping them to develop the resiliency to not feel so “stressed out” by defeats and disappointments.
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2. “Be yourself.” Unless your child is always perfect, please don’t ever tell your kids just to act and feel the way they really are. Our lives are a journey to become our better selves, not to act on our impulses and justify our bad behavior by saying that we are only being “real.”
3. “When I was your age…” There are times when our children are genuinely interested in learning about our childhood. However, in most situations parents reference their own experiences to justify not allowing kids to do something they want. This makes a lot of sense, but it rarely works. In fact, more often it provokes a reaction that older adults just don’t understand that times have changed.
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4. “Getting a college degree is essential to being happy.” About one-third of adults have college degrees. Does that the mean that everyone else is a failure? We want our kids to have the skills to live moral and meaningful lives, but there are many other ways to achieve those goals without going to college. Encourage your children to explore a variety of jobs, including skilled trade positions.
5. “Look out for No. 1.” Of course, we need to be aware of and meet our own needs. We have to be emotionally and mentally healthy before we can develop meaningful relationships with others. We quickly learn, however, that compromise is essential to any connections with others. Self-sacrifice and doing things for other people may be the best ways for us to feel good about ourselves, not focusing on what we think we want.
6. “Work hard today to prepare for tomorrow.” In moderation, this makes seems reasonable. However, it seems like many kids and their parents spend too much time planning for tomorrow rather than enjoying today. Help your children develop an intense sense of gratitude and appreciation for today’s gifts, rather than anticipating tomorrow’s treasures.
Next Week: Talking with kids about sexual harassment