Proper, effective communication is essential in any relationship. It is especially vital between parents and their kids because what they say and how they say it can produce positive or negative results. Sometimes, though, we don’t stop to think about how what we say affect our kids. There’s a tendency for us to repeat certain phrases we’ve all grown up with as kids or those we’ve heard other parents use. However, do these phrases actually work?
Dr. Vanessa Kathleen Cainghug, MD, DPBP, FPPA, FPSCAP, a practicing Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist from St. Luke’s Medical Center and The Medical City, sheds light on how some of the most common phrases we use can affect our kids.
1. “Stop whining!” or “Stop crying!” A parent usually blurts this out when she feels that he or she is losing control. Since no amount of reasoning seems to work, it would seem the easiest way is to just tell the child to stop.
According to Cainghug, parents who use these phrases risk getting the opposite of the results they want. Kids who hear these may sense how the parent is losing control and could use this as an opportunity to keep crying or whining just to get what they want.
The last thing we want to do is give in when our child is throwing a fit, as it might just invite a repeat performance in the future. To maintain control whenever a tantrum occurs, especially in public, we can remove the child from the situation, tell him that we can talk with him when he is done whining or crying then just ignore him until he does.
2. “Not now, I’m busy.” There are times when we are just so busy that we can’t immediately attend to our kids and we end up using this phrase. However, some kids tend to be persistently intrusive. The problem is that this phrase tells the child that he’s not important to us and that we have no time for him. It can actually lead him to be more persistent or even throw a tantrum just to gain attention.
To avoid this, a better alternative is to talk honestly to the child and tell him that we can schedule his request but that there’s a pressing situation that we need to attend to at the moment.
3. "Because I said so. / I don’t care who started it, you’re grounded. / I don’t need the reason why, I’m the mom." Sometimes we feel it’s impossible to talk to our kids that the only thing left to do is assert our authority. By using these commanding and authoritative phrases, we are reminding our child who is boss and are leaving no room for negotiation or question.
The child will probably do what we say when he hears this but it can also lead him to feel anxious about the parent-child relationship. In fact, Cainghug says that “some, if not most, will tend to keep things from the parents. Children with conditions like ADHD, for example, may turn to misbehaving and are at risk for Conduct Disorder because they feel frustrated at their inability to do as their parent says”.
In order to avoid this, Cainghug suggests for parents to develop pre-set rewards and consequences for the tasks they want their kids to accomplish or to change unwanted behavior. This will lessen the parent’s need to nag and the child will, in turn, have something they can use to guide them on how to behave.
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4. “’Wag ka makulit, kukunin ka ng pulis.” or “Pag hindi ka natulog, kukunin ka ng mumu.” or “Papa-injection-an kita sa doctor.” Parents usually try these lines to scare the child into submission. These might be effective at times but with bad consequences. Scaring a child can cause him to cry in fear or worse, lead him to develop anxieties and phobias that will affect him psychologically. It might, for instance, lead him to be scared of doctors, who are actually really there to help treat him and ensure his good health.
Cainghug says that pre-set rewards and consequences are a better alternative to scaring the child.
Although communicating with our kids can be challenging at times, it is definitely not impossible. They just have to know that they can openly talk to us and that we’ll listen. It’s also important to be watchful about what we say, how we say them and determine how these will affect our kids. Taking these things into consideration at all times will help us have a healthier and more open relationship with our kids.