During this busy season, take some time to think about the values you pass on to your children everyday…
A father and his daughter are leaving to go holiday shopping and the dad says, “Hurry up, please! We have so much to do and not very much time. Unless we get going, we are never going to get done.” None of those words are harsh or even frustrating. The child will very likely move faster and be helpful to getting things done. However, the message they are receiving is that holiday shopping is a lot of stressful work.
Instead, the dad could say, “Are you ready for shopping? I am really excited to get to spend the day with you getting gifts for other people – it is important to our family that we show others how much we care about them. Do you think your grandmother would like us to get her a new bathrobe? What color do you think she would like?” This dad is showing his daughter that holidays shopping is about others and talking about what is important to their family. Some families might mention religious beliefs or talk about family traditions.
Whatever your involvement is with children, think about how you parent, how you teach and how you interact with the children in your life. What are your actions saying about what you value?
When we talk to children about being in a hurry, we teach children that a situation is stressful. Instead, if we need children to do something fast and we make it into a game or a race, we teach them that accomplishing tasks quickly can be fun.
When we tell children we cannot spend time with them because we have to work, we should be sure we also use words about the importance of our work, and the importance of their work while we are gone. “I am going to go to work and help people get better, which is a very important job. While I am at work, you are going to go to school and learn about letters and about friends, which is also very important. Then we can spend time with each other tonight!”
When we talk to children about a task we find difficult we might talk to them about avoiding the task, which teaches them to want to avoid difficult tasks as well. Instead, we can talk to them about all the things we can do to make difficult tasks easier or about why we do things even when they are difficult. “I don’t like cleaning up either, but I really like having a clean space to play in so my things don’t get lost or broken. I really like cleaning up more when I have music on and when I have help. Do you want to help me clean up my room and then I can help you clean up yours?”
Changing the words we say can go a long way in changing our children’s attitudes.