What Message Does It Send When We Make Our Kids Wrong?
In this article I want to talk about all the ways we make our kids ‘wrong’. Whether its shouting at them when they spill something or giving a disapproving look or sigh if they didn’t answer all the questions right or any number of things we may do without thinking.
What kind of message are we really sending when we do this?
- Thats its not OK to be wrong
- That being wrong makes you less worthy of my love
- That being wrong means your not intelligent ‘enough’ (by my expectations or standards)
- That being wrong is not acceptable?
Now lets look at how that can go on to affect children as adults. If you are made to feel bad for doing something wrong and you start to associate being wrong with being less than, unworthy, bad, guilty, shameful what is it going to mean in your adult life?
Maybe you might:
- Strive to be perfect at all costs as you can’t stand the feeling that you have got it wrong or made a mistake.
- Unable to confidently make decisions for fear of making the ‘wrong’ choice
- Unable to truly commit to a relationship, a business or some other important decision for fear of making a major mistake
- Internally berate yourself if you do make a mistake. (‘Be careful what we say to our children for it will become their inner voice‘ Peggy O’Mara)
So what should we think about ‘wrongness’. Well recently I’ve come to understand wrongness or making a mistake as being OK. You see without making a mistake or getting things wrong you can’t grow, and as parents who want to be the best we can be, we all want and need to grow in our parenting and in our lives.
So if we could just change our perceptions for just a moment…. Just allow yourself to feel ok about a mistakes you made. Allow yourself the joy of having got it wrong, now you can learn and grow in a way you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. What is the learning or gift you got from this mistake?
Lets think about how our kids may feel. If you partner or a close friend made you feel bad about yourself each time you made a mistake, would you tell them they were totally right about doing that, or would you feel pissed off and probably not want to be around that person as much?
If, each time you made a mistake, they were a listening ear, talked to you about what happened and what you could have done differently, and maybe even help you put it right, how would you feel? Would you feel loved? Would you feel understood? Would you feel like they were on your side? Would you be more likely to learn and grow from those conversations?
How can we relate this to our children?
When they make mistakes, instead of using shouting, tutting, moaning, complaining etc (as we all do sometimes), we can chose to focus on the learning involved.
If you toddler spills milk, you can just say, ‘whoops! lets get a cloth and clean it up’, or even if they are a little older you can ask them for suggestions on how to handle the situation and let them help.
If your older child makes a choice that hurts them or gets them into problems in some way, you can talk to them calmly about the options. Not judging them for what they’ve done, or comparing them to others, or saying why you wouldn’t have done it. But by genuinely connecting and wanting to help them make their own choices, realisations, learnings and growth and helping them put it right if necessary.
If you get kids involved in the solution, and don’t shame them, they learn that when they make mistakes there is a way to put them right. This means they have the opportunity to not only learn, but also feel better about themselves their relationship with you and powerful in their ability to affect the world around them.
How do you make your kids feel empowered? Do you struggle to parent this way and automatically go back into mainstream solutions? Would love to hear your thoughts below!