Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” What we look for, what we believe, what we expect, what we seek, we will find. If we expect that our children will be trouble, if we verbalize it, not only do we find it even in places where it doesn’t exist, but we also put that thought into the minds of our children. Here are seven foolish things moms say that create poor expectations for both parent and child and cause the very things we are trying to avoid.
“Johnny, how many times have I told you not to do these stupid things?”
“Johnny’s always messing up his schoolwork.”
This one isn’t a specific word or phrase but a series of things moms say, either in front of or to their children, that tend to humiliate or focus on what the child doesn’t do well. This embarrasses the child, who then concentrates more energy on the problem instead of the solution.
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Parenting isn’t for wimps. It’s an eighteen-year (or longer) tireless commitment that tests your patience and brings you to the edge of your sanity in sleep deprivation. This is why God, in his infinite wisdom, gives us nine months to prepare for babyhood and eighteen years to prepare our children for their adulthood. It’s understandable that parents sometimes get overwhelmed, but it’s important not to speak out of our frustration or anger. It’s imperative that we take care not to damage our children’s self-esteem by constantly pointing out their flaws, especially in front of others.
2. “Not now. I’m busy.”
Saying this frequently will give our children the impression that we either don’t have the time or won’t take the time for them when they need us. Moms are some of the busiest people on the planet, but we should always remember our most precious charge: our children. They should come first, and they should know that they come first. Not only should we moms not say this, but it’s equally important not to give this impression with our body language.
If children feel that we are too busy to talk to them, they will feel as if they don’t matter and will be less likely to come to us when they have a problem or a concern. This can be devastating when their concern is with us.
3. “Do as I say, not as I do.”
This is just a silly saying in my humble opinion. Yes, there are things adults can and should do that are not appropriate for children, but this saying goes far beyond that. What this often communicates to our children is that we have the freedom to make bad choices, but they do not. I’ve heard many parents use this saying as an excuse to make bad decisions they don’t want their children to make.
We are to set the example for our children. Fourteen-year-old Johnny gets in trouble for smoking and reminds Mom that she smokes. “Do as I say, not as I do!” just doesn’t cut it here. Instead of giving an order, explain why you started, why you wish you could quit, and why you don’t want the same for your son. That will make your case for you much more effectively than a mandate not to smoke.
4. “Those dreaded teen years!”
This is one of the most foolish things I hear moms say, especially recently. Did you know that until relatively recently the word teenager didn’t exist? People were children until they were adults; during their childhood, they were prepared to accept and successfully carry out the responsibilities of adulthood. While transition from childhood to adulthood can be difficult, it doesn’t have to be dreaded, and I wouldn’t speak it into existence by uttering this out loud!
“Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” (Psalm 34:13).
5. “Because I said so!”
Okay, this one is actually the most foolish thing any mom ever said. I remember hearing this as a kid, and I remember thinking, that’s no answer! Just telling someone what to do or what not to do doesn’t teach him why he should/shouldn’t do it. Once he understands your reasoning, he may adopt your position, and then you’ll never have to say no to that again—because he will make the wise choice himself.
6. Empty Praise
Giving empty praise is as damaging as making empty threats. If a child can’t trust you to tell him the truth, he will not trust that you know what’s best for him. If your son finds that you are just telling him what he wants to hear, it will mean nothing, undermine his self-esteem, and eventually lead to disrespect. Disrespect always affects discipline.
7. Threatening or Using Fear
Fear and intimidation may work well for thieves, but they don’t go a long way toward building an open and honest parent/child relationship...though my husband thought it worked well on our daughter’s early beaus. You don’t want your children to be afraid of you; you want them to be afraid of what can happen to them if they don’t make wise, biblical decisions. To that end, it’s best to shoot straight. Tell them the truth and give them the insight they will need in order to adopt the beliefs that will help keep them safe and on the right path, following God’s path for their lives.
“My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit” (Job 27:4).
Uttering these seven foolish things not only leaves your children feeling powerless and confused, but it also gives them an excuse to justify disobedience and poor behavior. It can destroy the foundation of discipline and gives them a feeling of futility so that they give up trying to do the right things. Applying these tips will help you communicate more effectively with your children so that you may avoid a fear of the teen years and instead embrace them as your children grow to maturity.
JoJo Tabares holds a degree in speech communication, but it is her humorous approach to communication skills that has made her a highly sought-after Christian speaker and writer. Her articles have appeared in homeschool publications such as Homeschool Enrichment Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and on websites such as Crosswalk.com and Dr.Laura.com. For more information about effective communication for parents, please visit www.ArtofEloquence.com and click on “Say What You Mean for Moms.”
Copyright 2014, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the Annual Print 2014 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: June 20, 2014