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Parents Sound Silly Too

Parents always marvel by the silly things kids say. Too many times we laugh and say, “Kids say the darnedest things.” But have you ever considered some of the silly things you say to your child? Perhaps we should pause, just for a moment, and think about what we say to our children, and consider how ridiculous we must sound.

Here’s just a sampling of the darnedest things we say:

“Keep still.”

Pick any situation in which a child’s movement is restricted. Start the stopwatch. Why do they move so much? Actually, for the same good reason we adults should move more, increased movement aids digestion and stress relief. Metabolism is stimulated and calories are burned, promoting a healthy appetite and good sleep habits. Additionally, jumping draws calcium into growing bone cells, and protects older bones from developing osteoporosis. Movement prevents crankiness (in all sizes of people), and is a good remedy to stress. What you should say is, “Let’s go out to the playground.”

“That’s nothing to be upset about.”

There’s nothing more annoying than hearing that high-pitched wail coming from your child, when you know it’s not an emergency. But before you reply with that knee-jerk response that it’s ‘not a big deal,’ remind yourself that this is an upset person.

Actually, all humans respond the same at any age. Something occurs which is interpreted as a threat. This triggers a physiological response that causes the person to take immediate action to remedy the problem. Wailing or crying evokes the help of the most magical solver of crises he knows–you.  Under the influence of adrenaline, we all act a little crazy. What you should say (with an accompanying hug) is, “Honey, you’re upset.  I’m here.”  Your compassion will calm him down faster so that he can explain the predicament, and you can work your magic.

“Why can’t you just wait?”

A young child is limited to see things from another’s point of view. In fact, he is still learning to be aware of his own feelings. Consider the plight of Chester. He sees Trent using the blue truck, and decides, yes, that is just the truck he needs to transport the emergency supplies to the weary soldiers encamped under the couch. Trent holds on when Chester tries to take it, so Chester pulls harder, freeing the truck at last. Trent cries.  Amid his own roller coaster of fervor, frustration, and fleeting success, Chester is now faced with a flustered parent who can’t understand why he can’t wait and take turns. What you should say is, “How would you feel if someone took your toy away from you?” Teaching your child to be compassionate toward others takes time and patience, from both of you.

“Why are you doing that?”

Five-year-old Patsy is using a straw to blow bubbles in a cup of milk, which overflowing on to the table. What you should say is, “Patsy, some milk dripped onto the table. Here’s a paper towel.”  Did you think she could verbalize her current hypothesis about the bubblicity of milk fat under different temperature conditions and air stream velocity?  New to this particular field of inquiry, she is barely able to understand it herself.  Be a good research assistant and pass the towel.

Parents say the darnedest things.

By Deborah Wood, Ph.D

The author is a child development specialist offering consultation, counseling and workshops for parents, teachers, and child care professionals.

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