"If parents would limit their attempts to modify behavior to what interferes
with the parents' needs, there would be far less rebellion, fewer conflicts,
and fewer parent-child relationships that go sour."
"What did you really want to tell her?"
Use this parent talk phrase when you notice children using put-downs
and sarcasm with each other. It asks the person delivering the negative
communication to stop and think. It helps them become aware of the language
they choose and asks them to choose again. It challenges the child to
get in touch with what he really wanted.
"You pig!" then becomes, "I don't like it when I hear you eating from
across the room." "Knock it off," turns into "Please keep you feet off
the back of my chair." "You're selfish," is rephrased as, "I'd like a
turn on the trampoline."
"What did you really want to tell her?" reminds children to determine
what they want and to examine their language patterns to see if the two
are congruent. It helps them to focus on their own role in the interaction
and take responsibility for communicating cleanly and directly.
"Parent Talk: Words That Empower, Words That Wound" is a 280-page hardback
book by Chick Moorman. It is available through Personal Power Press at
(toll free) 877-360-1477 or email@example.com.
3. Spirit Whisperer Contemplation [back to top]
What if what you want from this child already exists within her and your
job is to encourage it to come out rather than discover a way to put it
in? In which ways would that alter your approach to parenting?
We are currently looking for people to become trainers in The Parent
Talk System. If you interested in making a difference in your community
and would you like to bring effective parenting to the parents and children
in your school, church, group, or neighborhood, this training could be
for you. The next Training of Trainers is July 25-27 in Dearborn, MI.
Request a brochure and additional information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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An exasperated mother, whose son was always getting into mischief, finally
asked him, "How do you expect to get into heaven?" The boy thought it
over and said, "Well, I'll run in and out and in and out and keep slamming
the door until St. Peter says, 'For heaven's sake, Dylan, come in or stay
6. Opportunity To Do Something Extraordinary [back to top]
Want to join a select group of people who are already working to improve
family life in their communities?
Consider becoming a Parent Talk System facilitator. Our 3-day skill-based
training will help you assist parents to learn communication strategies
to build love and trust within their families. You will help yourself
and parents learn practical, useable verbal strategies for raising responsible,
caring, confident children.
January 9-11, 2003
Grand Rapids, Michigan
January 16-18, 2003
Email email@example.com for a full brochure
and registration materials. For direct inquiries, call (toll free) 877-360-1477.
The Seven Worst Things to Say to Your Child
by Chick Moorman
In an effort to influence Caitlin's behavior in the grocery store, her
father told her, "If you don't stop that. I'm going to leave you
Following Mack's confession that he had helped himself to recently baked
cookies, his mother scolded him, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
Both parents were attempting to control their children. Both believed
they hwere providing love and direction. Both potentially harmed their
children by using Parent Talk that wounds the spirit.
Our style of Parent Talk and the words we use to communicate are critically
important to the self-esteem, emotional health, and personal empowerment
of our children. There is an undeniable link between the words we use
and the attitudes and outcomes they create in their lives.
Words can empower and words can wound. They can nurture or shame, encourage
or scold, uplift or bring down.
No parent wakes up in the morning and thinks to himself or herself,
"Now, I wonder what I can say today that will build negative core
beliefs in my children, tear down their confidence, and leave them feeling
dependent and out of control." Yet, parents often do just that, unintentionally,
because they don't understand the full impact of their words.
Here are the seven worst things you can say to your child.
1.) "If you don't stop that, I'm going to leave you here."
A young child's worst fear is that he or she will be lost or left alone
and unsafe. Threatening a child by playing into that fear of abandonment
in an effort to manipulate him into a desirable behavior is a sure sign
that the parent needs to be in time-out.
One alternative is to give your child a choice. Instead of scaring your
son, tell him,
"Brian, if you keep choosing that behavior we'll go home. If you
choose to talk in a normal voice we'll stay and shop. You decide."
Another alternative is to stop and take a break. It just might be that
one or both of you needs a rest or a nap.
2.) "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
This Parent Talk is an attempt to create guilt in the heart of the recipient.
The belief is that if the child can be shamed into feeling guilty, she'll
change her behavior and do what we desire.
There are times when shaming works and produces the behavior we want
from a child. But at what price? Along with the shame and guilt come core
beliefs of "I am wrong," "I'm not enough," and "I
can never do anything right." When children act out of these core
beliefs, they attract more shaming, which confirms their beliefs and perpetuates
the cycle of behaviors that elicit further shaming responses.
3.) "We never wanted you, anyway."
"I wish I never had you," "If I had it to do over again,
I would never have children," and "We never wanted you, anyway"
are inexcusable pieces of Parent Talk. Regardless of what the child has
done and no matter what his tone of voice, these parental responses are
totally inappropriate. This language should serve as a signal that something
is more than amiss in your child/parent relationship. Use it as a catalyst
to get some help. Turn to a counselor, clergy member or school authority.
Do it now. You and your children are worth it.
4.) "You're the reason we're getting a divorce."
No child is ever the reason his or her parents are getting a divorce.
And no child should be expected to carry that emotional burden. Even when
we explain carefully and lovingly to a child that she is in no way responsible
for our decision to separate or divorce, she holds fantasies that she
is somehow responsible. "If I had only been different," she
thinks, "my parents would still be together." "If I had
just been better, they wouldn't have fought so much" is a common,
if unspoken, belief that children often hold.
5.) "Why can't you be more like your brother (sister)?"
When parents verbally compare siblings someone is shown to be deficient.
They send messages to the child that he is not smart enough, good enough,
fast enough, or thorough enough. "You're not good enough" messages
internalize as core beliefs and contribute to undesirable behavior in
Comparisons increase sibling rivalry, intensifying the natural rivalry
which already exists and create more hassles for the parents. Comparisons
also damage the relationship between siblings by fostering feelings of
Accept each child in your family for the unique person he or she is.
Each has personal strengths, capabilities, and needs. Help your children
see the beauty of their own uniqueness by focusing on each individual
without using comparisons.
6.) "Here, let me do that for you."
If "Here, let me do that," "Let me handle that,"
and "I'll do it this time" are a regular part of your Parent
Talk, you could be contributing to learned helplessness in your children.
Taking over and doing things for a child that she could do for herself
disempowers her. It encourages her to view herself as incapable.
Taking over and doing may save some time in the present, but you make
more work for yourself in the long run. If you do something for your child
once, no problem. If you do something twice, you've created a pattern.
If you do something for your child a third time, congratulations; you
now have a new job.
7.) "Because I said so, that's why."
The words are, "Because I said so, that's why!" but the silent
message is: "I'm big and you're little. I'm smart and you're dumb.
I have power and you don't. My job is to tell; your job is to obey."
This style of Parent Talk breeds resentment and creates power struggles.
Instead try using Parent Talk that communicates respect while you tell
the child directly your feelings and desires. "It's frustrating for
me, John, when you continue to ask, Why?" As the parent here, I make
some of the decisions. This is one of those times when I'm making the
decision. I won't be changing my mind on this one."
Language is the primary delivery system for the emotional abuse of children.
Eliminate abusive Parent Talk by monitoring your manner of speaking. If
you become conscious of using one or more of the seven worst things to
say to a child, or other abusive language, stop. Take a deep breath. Go
for a walk. Take a hot bath. Give yourself and your child time to cool
off and regain perspective. Then begin again, remembering that words can
empower or words can wound.