War: The Five Best/Worst Things You Can Say To Your Children
- Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Feelings of superiority lead to a belief in "better than." "Better than" breeds an "us vs. them" mentality that encourages conflict, dissention, and strife.
2. "We are right and they are wrong."
No one does anything wrong considering their view of the world. Human beings do horrible things only because they believe they are right. Their side is doing what they do because they think they are right. Our side is doing what we do because we think we are right.
Being right doesn't work. Making people wrong doesn't work. Speak to your children of differences. Let them know what is similar and what is different about the beliefs, values, morals and cultures. But do it without making others wrong.
3. "There is nothing you can do."
When you say these words to your child you tell her, "You are small, insignificant, and have no power." You teach her that she is at the mercy of her environment and that she has no influence over the events of her life. You are teaching her to play her life from the victim position
Ask instead, "What do you think we can do about this?" Help her brainstorm possible actions that can be taken. Couldn't she donate part of her allowance to the Red Cross? Could she write a letter to a serviceman or woman? How about making a poster, saying a prayer, putting a bow on a tree, or designing a T-shirt?
Tell your child, "You always have more choices than you think you have," and help her develop an "I can" stance towards life. One of the best ways to come to believe "I can do something" is simply to go out and do something.
4. "You don't know what you are talking about."
Would you ever say to your child, "You're really stupid. You're so young and inexperienced you couldn't possibly know anything. You need to live as long as I have and then you'll be worthy of having an opinion." Probably not. But when you say, "You don't know what you are talking about," you have sent him a similar message.
Of course we have more years of experience than our children. Absolutely, we have seen and heard things that they don't yet begin to grasp. But that doesn't mean we can't respect the opinion of our 8 year old or that of our 13 year old.
Listen to your child. Demonstrate your understanding of their views by reflecting it back to them with a paraphrase. Model for them a mature adult who can respect differences as well as contrary opinions.
5. "There is nothing to worry about."
Children worry. They get scared. They have strong feelings about war, terrorism, and death. To tell they have nothing to worry about is to ask them to numb out their feelings, push them down, and pretend they don't exist.
In times of strong emotion children needs support. They need adults in their lives who help them work through their feelings in safe ways. To help your emotion-laden child, use words that help him identify his feelings. Say, "You sound worried," or "I hear how scared you are," to demonstrate you are listening at a feeling level. Say, "So you are afraid we might be injured," to demonstrate that his feelings will be acknowledged.
It is only after emotions are expressed that children are able to handle the concerns that relate to those feelings. Be a parent who encourages you child to express his emotions.
Chick Moorman is the author of "Parent Talk: How to Talk to Your Child in Language That Builds Self-Esteem and Encourages Responsibility," now available in paperback; Simon and Schuster, a Fireside Original. He publishes free E-newsletters for parents and educators. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your free subscription to one or both newsletters. Information on seminars and products is available by clicking here.
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