Good parenting has definitely been on my mind a lot lately! As I’ve been preparing for baby number two, it seems like I have been overwhelmed with teaching my lovey number one to listen and obey, not hit, clean up, not throw his fork on the floor, share, not hit people with sticks (or any stick-like object), and the list could go on forever right? But, of course, he’s only two and he is experimenting with everything! Luckily my husband and I love him more than anything and also have an amazing amount of fun playing with him every day, but all these countless lessons are sometimes hard to teach. Sometimes advice needs to be sought or maybe I feel like I need to know that someone else is struggling to be the best parent they can be too, and it’s in these moments where it may become easy to say something negative about your child without thinking. I came across an awesome article tonight that really made me think about how what I say to others about my children affects my children.
It’s silly that I even needed to be reminded of this because my parents were amazing about building us up to others. I remember listening to my mom’s phone conversations and feeling amazing when she discussed something good I had done or accomplishment in my life. It made me want to be even better and in some ways created a “parenting self-fulfilling prophecy.” When my mom focused on her kids being good, I think her kids were even better….WOW. This could be such a revelation!
The article I found was an excerpt from Hidden Messages, by Elizabeth Pantley. The part that stood out to me was about casual remarks we make about our children:
Unloading a cart full of Cherrios, macaroni and cheese and hot dogs at the grocery store’s check out counter, a harried mother chats animatedly to the cashier. “…Only one more week ’til summer vacation, then the kids will be home all day. I can already hear the bickering and whining! I don’t know how I’ll manage to live through the next few months! Want to buy two kids, cheap?” The cashier laughs and shakes her head, ” Oh, no thanks, I have my own! I know what you mean! I’m already waiting for next September!” In their supposedly innocent light-hearted banter, neither one notices the shoppers two children standing right beside her, listening quietly to every hurtful word. Neither one notices a pair of small eyes cast downward just so, or a nervous little cough.
Consider Amir’s situation as he walks in the door after another grueling day of work. His joyful, eager children run for Daddy, but Mom spies him coming in just before they have their chance to pounce. And the daily gripe session begins. “I am SO glad you’re home. I need five minutes of peace and quiet. These kids drove me crazy all day! Abdi and Sheida have been like wild animals. They were fighting in the living room and knocked over the potted fern. Aria has been acting like a two year old-having temper tantrums over every little thing. The wash machine broke again and I have four stacks of kids’ dirty clothes piled up in the laundry room…” Quietly and unnoticed, three dispirited children fade into the background of the family room and turn on the TV.
I know many parents who slip into the type of unfortunate conversation of a mother and father who approached me after a recent parenting lecture. They were anxious to talk with me, bemoaning their three year old’s behavioral problems. “Molly’s been a good girl until recently. It’s like we’ve entered the terrible twos a bit late. She’s just no fun anymore. She’s constantly yelling “No!” to us and won’t listen to a word we say. We’ve tried to be patient, but she’s pushed us to the end of our rope!” I glanced down to see a little three year old (Molly, perhaps?) clinging tightly to her father’s leg, But she’s only three, she doesn’t understand what they’re saying, this couldn’t possibly hurt her. Or so we think.
What an awesome article. Definitely about made me cry thinking about these poor kids, but then I thought how easy it would be to slip into the role of one of these parents without even realizing what we are doing. I know that what we say really does affect our children so much. I have been so surprised at how closely my son mimics the things I do or say. Is he listening? Oh yes!
So today I am challenging myself and each of you to be more cautious of how we talk about our kids to others. Focus on the positive and we all might just benefit from the “Parenting Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” of awesome kids!