So, thank the child-rearing gods above that Parents magazine has provided us with this “handy” graphic so that us moms and dads – already overwhelmed with guilt from all the other things we’re screwing up – can also remind ourselves of the terribly damaging things we are saying to our kids.
Right at this very moment, parents everywhere are running through the kitchen with a pair of scissors (being children of progressive parents themselves, they were never told to be careful) to cut out this golden piece of wisdom and hang it on the refrigerator next to the (very large) graphic: 30,000 Things You Should Never, Ever, Not Even if They Were Starving, Feed Your Kids.
In an article titled “10 Things You Should Never Say to Your Kids,” published in the April 2014 issue of Parents, experts explain how uttering the statements in the above graphic may do more harm than good to our kids. Never mind the a-holes who call their kids “stupid,” or tell them to “shut up,” but us other a-holes saying things like “Great Job” are setting our kids up for years of angst and, most likely, therapy well into their adult years.
My initial reaction was, “This crap is total bullish*t.” Then, of course, because I can be a sucker, a wee bit of guilt set in. Admittedly, I’ve said most of these things to my kids, and for just a split second I was wondering if my children were having nightmares about our finances because I have told them we couldn’t afford something in the past.
Truth be told, I understand SOME of the points made in the article. But in its entirety, it suggests that, as parents, we should shield our kids from a lot of inevitable truths and that parents should be superhuman, able to walk on eggshells around our kids without cracking them. But I for one am a parent in the real world, where kids test patience and push buttons, a world where parents are human and sometimes react instead of act.
Let’s dissect some of these statements further.
- Hurry Up
Parenting experts say we should NEVER say this to our kids, as it creates additional stress for them. (Never mind the additional stress that being late for an important appointment is causing me.) Instead, they suggest, “Let’s hurry,” which “sends the message that the two of you are on the same team.” Seriously. This is crazy talk. We are definitely NOT on the same team when some of us have busted our asses to get ready on time while one kid is playing air guitar in his underwear, THEN organizing his Pokemon cards while he’s supposed to be getting dressed and THEN complaining incessantly that his pants are touching the top of his feet and refusing to wear a shirt. (* Please note, your pants are SUPPOSED to touch the top of your feet so you don’t look like you’re waiting for a flood). You better believe that in this situation, I am going to say “Hurry Up.”
Experts also suggest turning the act of getting ready into a game: “Why don’t we race to see who can get her pants on first?” Um. Just no.
- We can’t afford that
We are NEVER supposed to discuss the reality that we aren’t millionaires with our children. This may cause them great fear and anxiety that we are not in control of our finances. Instead, when faced with the “Can I have that?” question, we are supposed to say, “We’re not going to buy that because we’re saving our money for more important things.” By Parents’ crazy logic, isn’t THIS alternative statement invalidating the desires of our children by suggesting that what they want isn’t important? Come on! I am faced with periodic questions about why we don’t have as big of a house as so-and-so. I tell my kids like it is. That we don’t have the funds for a McMansion. Plain and simple. When asked why, I tell them, “There’s ALWAYS going to be someone who has more than you, and ALWAYS someone who’s going to have less,” which I think is an important lesson.
- No dessert unless you finish your dinner
Jesus H. Christ. (Excuse my language.) Here is what some brainiacs suggest in lieu of the above statement. Get ready for it: “First we eat our meal and then we have dessert.” Wait. What? Isn’t that what “No dessert unless you finish your dinner” means? I know, the subtle difference sets it up in a slightly more positive tone. But get a grip, Parents magazine. When you’ve labored over dinner for the third day in a row and, for the third day in a row, your kids tell you they don’t like it or that the dinner is disgusting (actually, one of my children once told me that dinner tasted like “rotten butts”), and THEN they ask you for dessert without even taking more than one bite? Where do you thing my priorities will lie?
Truth is, in a perfect world, we’d all say the perfect things to our kids. All. The. Time. We’d be the ultimate picture of calm and never yell and would use every situation to teach our children valuable life lessons. We’d always act and never react. Hell, in a perfect world, our kids would be perfect. In a perfect world, I guess we’d all be robots, devoid of emotion and nerves that can get frayed. But nothing is perfect. Least of all, parenthood. It’s filled with sacrifices and compromises, hard truths and realities.
Parents, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Check out the original article in Parents magazine. Is it total BS, or does the article illustrate some valid points? Do you say these things to your kids sometimes? Or are you following the golden rules?