When we're talking to our kids about what we need them to do or how we want them to behave, we can sometimes get frustrated and say things that can hurt long term. Instead of letting our frustrations get the better of us and insisting that we can do it faster, better, or nicer, it's important to let our kids try and fail and work at their own pace if we want to raise happy, independent kids.
Here is a small list of things that I find myself saying to my toddler that I know can be rephrased to help him learn to do things on his own. It can help him learn how to behave in a way that will help him to work on things like relationships and emotions in a positive way!
It's unrealistic of us to expect our children to be able to do thing at our own pace. When we are running around and trying to get things done, we have all been in the frustrating position of feeling like our kids are holding us back from getting everything done. When we tell them that they aren't moving quickly enough for us, all we are doing is putting down their efforts. We need to remember that our kids are growing, learning, and trying their best to match our hectic pace, so try your best to have a little more patience with your little ones.
"I'll do that for you."
Another example of our impatience and experience as parents. When we don't give our kids enough time to try (and probably fail) at a task, we are holding them back from learning to be self-sufficient in other, more important tasks. When our children are having a hard time completing something correctly, try your best not to step in, but to offer supportive words and prompts like, "Maybe try like this," or "Did you think about trying this?"
"You won't like it."
It's tempting to try and make choices for our kids, especially when we are 99% sure of what they will or won't enjoy. But jumping the gun and assuming that our kids won't like something is taking away their ability to make choices for themselves. We should allow our kids the chance to make decisions, and then be there for the teaching moments to explain what kind of decisions they can make in the future. Plus, there's always a chance that our kid will surprise us and absolutely love something we never thought they would!
"You're doing that wrong."
This may seem like a no-brainer, but as parents, we have all been in a situation where we feel like we could get it done better and quicker than our kids. Take pride in the fact that your child is trying their best to finish that puzzle or stir that batter, and that they need the practice to make sure they will be able to complete the task correctly in the future. Remember that there's no rush for them to get simple tasks done, and that trial and error is one of the most effective ways to learn. Their little brains will remember the last time they worked on that puzzle, and they'll change their technique if given the chance. Let's be positive and reassuring when they're working on new projects and tasks!
"Act your age."
This is a tough one, because we live in the age of comparison. If you have a friend with a toddler the same age as your little one, and they are able to sing the ABCs and throw away their own diaper, you may feel like your babe is a little behind. When we speak to our children like they should be acting older than they are, or even when we expect them to act a certain way because of age, we are truly just comparing them to the highest standard for that age. Now, this isn't to say that some behaviors aren't inappropriate for certain ages. What is appropriate for a two-year-old is certainly not okay for a six-year-old. But it's important as parents to try our best to teach to our children's level, and make sure not to expect more from them than they have shown us they are developmentally prepared to handle.
"Don't talk to strangers."
This is an important message that I think is very easy for our kids to take too literally. When we are trying to teach our kids to make smart choices with people they don't know, saying they shouldn't speak with strangers can actually do more harm than good. We should let our children know that there are good, kind people all over our neighborhoods and cities, and that it is important to find those we are sure will help and not hurt us. Try to explain to your children about community helpers like police officers, firemen, or even teachers who are there to help us if we are in trouble. Also, explain to your kids that they should tell you if they meet someone that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable.
"No one will want to play with you..."
This is one that comes up when your trying to teach your littles how to interact with others, and aren't sure how to phrase it. It is totally true that if you are the type of kid who likes to hit, whine, or tattle on others, then you probably will not be a child's first choice when it comes to picking someone to playing. But there is a better way to let our kids know how to interact with other kids. When you see your child doing something at home that you feel like would make a good teaching moment, maybe say something like, "It's nice to share our toys with friends! Can you and mama share while we play?" This helps for future teaching, because you will be able to reference this experience to help your child learn.
"Crying won't help anything."
If we wouldn't expect it of ourselves, we shouldn't expect it of our kids. The fact is crying actually does help us when things get rough. Sometimes a little emotional break is what we all need to get back to ourselves and have a better day. When our kids start to cry over something that we feel like is unnecessary, we need to remember their emotional range is a heck of a lot smaller than ours, and that it may be important to them. If your babes are having a hard time, give them a time limit or say something like, "It's okay to cry for a few minutes, but we'll wait for you to be all done, then we can do something fun together, okay?"
It can be hard to shift our mindset form babying our kids to letting them learn how to handle situations and complete tasks on their own. Making simple changes in the way that we speak to them will help them feel more capable of taking care of things on their own and will help them rely on their own skills to become independent kids!