We all say the wrong thing sometimes, leaving our kids feeling hurt, angry or confused. Read on for some of the most common verbal missteps moms and dads make, and kinder, gentler alternatives.
Related article: Less Is More: The Perils of Over-Parenting
“Leave Me Alone!”
A parent who doesn’t crave an occasional break is a saint, a martyr or someone who’s so overdue for some time alone she’s forgotten the benefits of recharging. Trouble is, when you routinely tell your kids, “Don’t bother me” or “I’m busy,” they internalize that message, says Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D., founder of the Ozark Center for Language Studies, in Huntsville, Arkansas. “They begin to think there’s no point in talking to you because you’re always brushing them off.” If you set up that pattern when your children are small, then they may be less likely to tell you things as they get older.
At those times when you’re preoccupied, set up some parameters in advance. I might have said, “Mom has to finish this one thing, so I need you to paint quietly for a few minutes. When I’m done, we’ll go outside.” Just be realistic. A toddler and a preschooler aren’t likely to amuse themselves for a whole hour.