Woman’s Day have set the cat among the pigeons with their insightful comments regarding how we should be talking to our kids. I’m a huge advocate of ingesting the generous source of great parenting advice available on the Internet, especially as a wannabe ‘perfect parent’.
This is my alternative guide:
Try, Try Again – I Know You Can Try Harder – apparently this subtle form of coaching can be discouraging to your child. LEGIT? Of course you need to point out the obvious if your child is under-performing and embarassing the family gene pool. How dare they squander their talents! If you don’t have high expectations for your child, how else are they going to impress their peers and the parents of their peers (leading to lots of high-brow, pretentious networking between aforementioned sets of parents without having to organise one single coffee morning)? This is not a criticism, what you’re really saying is, ‘get your ass into gear, buddy’, and in my opinion, sometimes going a bit Victorian is ok. It’s not manipulative to say, ‘you’re a bright kid, so don’t waste your talent and my time.’ Maybe it won’t motivate them, but ignoring the fact that they’re lazy buggers isn’t going to either.
Food Matters – Are You Sure You Need That Second Cupcake? I love this example. In today’s arena of political correctness (yawn), it’s frowned upon to draw attention to the extra kilos your kids shouldn’t be carrying because Macdonalds is cheap and easy. I’ve read all that perfect-parenting advice, and the concern regarding body image issues relating to adolescent girls in particular. Apparently, commenting on their weight or diet issues is worse than mentioning the colour of someone’s skin these days . But if your child is getting picked on for being a bit ‘porky’, surely they need to be educated? I remember talking to my daughter in pc euphemisms about the need to get ‘fitter’ and ‘choosing healthier options’ when she started getting a bit pudgy around the middle, and she’s thanked me ever since.
Absolutely Wrong – You ‘always’ or you ‘never’ – this is one of my cardinal sins in parenting. I must use this expression a minimum of 30 times a day. ‘Why do you ‘always’ have to leave the milk out?’, ‘why can you ‘never’ tell me the truth?’, ‘why do you ‘always’ side with the kids?’, ( said to the old man). For some reason it makes me feel infinitely better to vocalize my frustration with that little exaggerated emphasis so that the family really knows just how awful they can be. I probably am really (and inadvertently) alluding to my inadequacies as a parent/wife and the frustrations therein, because I can’t get the little horrors to remember anything I tell them; but it’s bloody frustrating when they ‘always’ make the same mistakes. ‘Can you ‘never’ flush the toilet?’ is my most common whine; agreed, it doesn’t change diddlysquat but it makes me feel better. If I suggested to the kids, ‘why don’t we work on this together?’ when they forget to flush the toilet, they’d be completely grossed out. Maybe the right approach would be to make them clean the toilet?
Beyond Reason – Because I said so! Love it, love it, love it! This form of solid, in-depth reasoning was how my own mother raised me and why I respected her authority. I accepted it without question (probably to avoid corporal punishment, which was standard practice then). This comment did not censure my ability to think or figure things out for myself; she made the decisions and took the responsibility, and if I questioned her logic, she could smack. We were the mute generation, seen and not heard. If she ‘said so’, who was I to challenge it? In an ideal world, it would be great to have the time to give a full explanation every time your child asked ‘why’ in domestic combat or when you have to say ‘no’ for the twentieth time of the day, but few of us are paragons of virtue.
Told You So – I told you waiting until the last minute was a mistake. Well you did tell them, didn’t you? And you can’t be fairer than that. They were lucky to get a warning. It’s a well-known fact that procrastination nearly always has consequences and it’s a lesson better learned early and before they hit the workplace.
Such Great Heights – You’re the best at soccer! A few years ago we were supposed to shower our kids with praise (no matter how inadequate they were) to avoid self-esteem issues. These days it’s wrong to big up your child’s strengths in case it sets them up for a fall later. WTF! Fully supportive parents celebrate the achievements of their children and begrudge the achievements of other children – fact. Apparently, building impossible mountains for them to climb can create anxiety. Diddums’! It’s a tough world out there with fierce competition, and that’s without considering the implications of ‘survival of the fittest’ (think Hunger Games). Shouldn’t we be building them up? Did Richard Branson and Steve Jobs succeed through ‘trying their best’?
Smooth Over – Don’t worry, the first day at school will be fine. You’re not supposed to lie to your kids at all, you have to now say it how it is; even the ‘little white’ versions to protect them, can be interpreted as massaging the truth, thereby being disrespectful of their opinions. If something is going to be truly ‘wetting-their-pants’ awful, they need to know, to prepare. By manipulating the truth, you are dismissing the value of their feelings! You need to ‘discuss’ their worries, hug it out, and then feed them to the lions.
Pal Around – I wish you didn’t hang around with Jack. I actually partly agree with this one because in my experience, the more you demonize those revolting friends, the more your kids canonize them. I used to watch a bi-lingual friend of mine welcome new kids to her house, and then in Spanish say to her kids, ‘what have you bought this little shit home for’? Our social skills develop from spending time with different people, good and bad. The old man’s mother used to say to him, ‘Get rid of her,’ all the time, but I’m still here, bitch.
Don’t DIY – That’s not how you do it, here let me. I once took pity on the kids who wanted to be involved with Christmas so I invited them to help me dress the Christmas Tree, thinking I could trust their creative judgement. The tree ended up looking like Santa had reversed over the tree with his sleigh, several times. They’d even hung those terrible school-made decorations on it, and I had to organise colour blindness tests for both of them not long after. It was an assault on the senses in all the worst ways. The following year I bought a separate Christmas tree for the playroom and one for each of their bedrooms.
Spare the Compare – Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister? This is done in the belief that the child who is being criticized might begin to develop the desired qualities of the other sibling, and sometimes it works. What’s wrong with sibling rivalry? It’s why ‘only’ children are so self-centred and can’t share. Being the eldest I was obviously intellectually superior, (apparently the eldest gets the higher IQ, height and parental care), nevertheless, being compared to perfection instilled the ‘survival’ instinct in my siblings, the desire to succeed, for no other reason than to knock me off my perch. Labeling can be negative but if the comparison is balanced between siblings, I don’t really see a problem.
Some of my ‘gems’ that you might consider employing to achieve that goal of ‘perfect parent’:
‘You know you’ll get biscuit cancer if you eat that many biscuits?’
‘One day you’ll know what it’s like to have children like you’.
‘Sometimes I really wonder where you came from.’
‘I think it’s time to call the adoption agency’.
‘Do you want to be the fattest boy in Sydney?’
NO CHILDREN WERE HARMED IN THE EXPERIMENTATION TO DEVISE THESE EXPERT TIPS.
Motherlode Blog: Parents of Picky Eaters, It’s Not Your Fault (parenting.blogs.nytimes.com)