“You won’t get that right; here, let me do that!”
“Why does everything have to be so difficult with you?”
“You’re never organized; why don’t you put your stuff away?!”
I suspect that most parents have echoed versions of the above comments or phrases at one time or another. I know I have, and I’m not proud when I’ve said something of that nature. I have a fundamental belief that most parents want the best for their children. They want to teach them skills and attributes that nurture them to truly be their best.
Perhaps you have heard parents say, “I’m telling you this for your own good.” I honestly believe this is the case most of the time, but on occasion we can forget how our so-called “caring attitude” is shaping or guiding our children to becoming the very thing we don’t want them to be.
For example, “You won’t get that right, let me do that.” This statement probably comes from a momentary place of frustration or trying to be efficient in our busy day-to-day lives. I do not believe parents think their child will “never get it right,” but from the child’s perspective, they may only be hearing, “I can’t get things right all the time.”
In times of chaos and frustration, we may not be consciously present. We simply, at times, are not mindful about what we are saying. When we are mindful, we say things that aspires a child to do and be their best. “You know, I’m proud of how you worked hard and tried to solve that problem.” “Your concentration was so amazing.” “That was a very kind thing to do when you shared your toy with your friend.” Such comments reinforces what is possible and nurtures a child who is learning new skills and abilities. It lifts their spirit about their potential, and that you, as a parent, recognize that potential in them. Positive reinforcement taps into the child’s inherent abilities to do more and give more of themself. Have you ever noticed how much they radiate after such positive feedback? Ever notice the gratitude of love and affection in return?
When we focus on what a child does right, we honour their inherent strength and spirit. We have all done that. When we do that more consistently, we become the parent we aspire to be and the parent our child wishes us to be. This comes from being more conscious about the words we choose and the tone in which we deliver them.
One key reminder for good parenting is to look at the very trait that you want your child to improve. For example, I have said, “Why are you so disorganized?” to my daughter. The truth is I was not conscious about the language I was using. The other truth is she’s not always disorganized, but it came across that way. The reality is that she’s learning to be organized… she was just a little child when I said that. The other reality is that I am not always organized in every nook and cranny in my house either. Simply stated, I wasn’t empowering her to be her best. What I should have done (and later did) was look for the positive intent. Looking for the moments when she was organized in her world of arts and crafts. When I saw her being organized, I praised her for that. It reinforced that being organized is useful and important. The other important consideration is that she is a young child who is learning a new skill; I should be patient. How long have you been working on a personal attribute that you wanted to improve?
When I changed the focus of what I was seeing, it changed the focus of what I was saying. When I saw her do well, I reminded her of that instead of focusing on the times when she wasn’t doing well. This shift in consciousness creates a shift in confidence in a child. Be attentive in your words, thoughts, and actions because the little things don’t make the difference, the little things are the difference.
Dr. Lalit Chawla, MD, CCFP, FCFP
DR. CHAWLA, MD, CCFP, FCFP is a highly sought after international Speaker, Family Physician in Chatham, Ontario, and an Adjunct Professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry in London, Ontario.