Words Matter – 5 “Positive” Things to Stop Saying to Your Children

The positive self esteem movement has created parents who build up their children constantly. Not just in the relatively benign, “Great job!” way, but more along the lines of “You are the most perfect child who has ever lived!” Now studies are finding these types of statements can actually do more harm than good.

We don’t think of the positive statements we make to our kids as capable of causing any damage to them. Yet, the wrong positive words can create inflated egos, a sense of entitlement and even extreme disappointment when they compare reality to their parents’ proclamations.

So what are some positive things parents should avoid saying to their kids?

  • That is the best ….. ever! All kids are great. Realistically though, less than 5% are going to be outstanding at any given thing. Making them believe they are going to be in that 5%, when it is obvious they are no where even close to that, sets up all sorts of issues for the future. It’s fine to encourage your kids. Look for specific things to complement like, “I love how you used so much color in your painting.” Or compliment them on their growth and improvement. You don’t have to pretend they are the best at something in order to encourage them.
  • You can do anything you put your mind to. I understand the intention of that statement. Hard work and persistence can sometimes help you achieve your goals. But there is also some realism involved. I never did learn how to swim well at all. Trying to make me believe I could be in the Olympics would have been borderline cruel (if I had believed it) and set me up for disappointment as I continued to struggle. Christian parents also need to make their kids very aware that God has a plan for their lives and they need to follow that. Even though they may be able to do something, doesn’t mean that it is best for them spiritually or in God’s plans for their lives.
  • You are better than him, her or them. Once again, as an adult I understand the message is to not engage in poor behaviors just because others have chosen to do so. What young people often hear though is that they are literally better than other people for some reason. If you do believe some people are more worthy of God’s love and your love than others, please do some serious soul searching. Don’t pass on those attitudes to your children.
  • They are just jealous of you. This is often said to comfort a child who has had a peer treat them badly. While sometimes it may be true, it isn’t always the case. This statement can backfire in any number of ways, if the real reason is something different. It’s better to have discussions about how God wants us to treat people who would consider themselves to be our enemies.
  • It doesn’t really matter if you… Fill in the blank – read their Bible, go to Church every week, pray, have Christian friends, participate in things that will help them grow spiritually… the list goes on and on. Downplaying the importance of working on their spiritual health and growth can cause young people to stop growing spiritually altogether. Some will even reject God as being unnecessary in their lives. Your kids should always hear you reinforce them when they want to do something to grow spiritually – even if it can’t logistically happen for some reason.

What parents consider positive words can cause damage to your kids, too. Think carefully before you speak positive words. They need your encouragement. They don’t need hyperbole or downplaying things that can help them grow.

Words Matter – 5 Types to Avoid in Parenting

He is a Hollywood star and author. The type you would easily recognize if you saw him out in public. He has been successful in multiple entertainment fields. Yet even now, in his mid 70’s, the words his parents said to him as a child still obviously haunt him.

Sadly, this Hollywood star isn’t alone. Untold numbers of adults are walking around deeply wounded by the things their parents regularly said to them as children. No matter how hard they try, they can’t seem to erase those hurtful tapes.

I’m sure most parents don’t sit down when they have a child and think of all of the things they can say to their child that will break him or her. They don’t look into their child’s teary eyes and think, “Awesome! I really hurt my kid’s feelings this time.” Yet, many parents repeatedly say things that are slowly breaking their kids into tiny little pieces emotionally.

This brokenness can negatively impact their self image, their relationships and even their spiritual lives. Sadly, most of these parents are probably totally unaware of the damage their words are causing. They may think they are just teasing their child or helping their child be “better” somehow.

So what are those words that break children emotionally? It’s important to remember, we all misspeak at times. Apologizing as soon as you realize what you have done and trying to make amends, can heal any cracks your words may have caused. What causes the deep damage is repeatedly saying these types of things to your kids.

  • You are…statements. These may be said directly to the child or the child may overhear their parent constantly describing them this way to others. Not the positive statements, but defining statements that are negative. For example, “You are so difficult”, “He is such a handful”, “She is so prickly”. If you are unsure whether or not the statements you are making are positive or negative, just don’t say them. Your kids are a mix of thoughts, feelings, words and actions. They don’t always align. A child who appears difficult may actually be a highly gifted child who no one is helping reach his potential, so he is bored out of his mind. When you repeatedly use “You are” statements, many kids begin to define themselves with that label – and sometimes only that label.
  • Complaining statements. Okay, we have all had bad parenting days. You know those days when you aren’t sure whether or not you or your child will survive their childhood. Or there may be things you want to do that aren’t practical at the moment because your children are still at home. If your children constantly hear you say what a burden they are to you, or how you can’t wait until they go back to school, they will begin to believe you don’t love them. Even worse in a young person’s mind, they will think you don’t like them. They will begin feeling unloveable and unlikeable. After all, if their parents don’t like them (and in a kid’s mind that’s part of the parent’s job), then who else can possibly like them?
  • Name calling. Stupid. Bad. Idiot. Klutz. Thunder thighs. Ugly names have no place in Christian parenting. Often parents view these as “pet names” used in “teasing”. They actually serve no purpose other than to demean. Your child doesn’t really think these names are funny on any level. (Even if they pretend to laugh along or begin calling themselves the name.) Don’t use them with anyone, but especially your children. (The Hollywood star’s parents called him “dumb dog” throughout his childhood.)
  • Cursing. Christians should avoid cursing for a number of reasons. When you curse at your children, they know it is a sign of anger and disgust. When they constantly hear you cursing at them, they feel they are disgusting – whether or not that is what you meant to convey.
  • Broadcasting your child’s weaknesses and mistakes to others. We aren’t talking about prayer requests for kids struggling with something like drug abuse. We are talking about posting on social media or telling everyone within earshot of the embarrassing things that happen to your kids. Or complaining about how they got in trouble for something in school. Or posting one of those posts meant to mortify a child that disobeyed. Kids need room to make mistakes and suffer consequences without feeling like the whole world now knows what they did.

If you have been guilty of using these types of words in your parenting, please stop. Apologize to your child. Look into getting you and your child outside help repairing your relationship and their self esteem if you need it. Don’t make the damage worse by continuing bad speech habits. Being kind in your speech to your children can give them the strength and resiliency they will need to live the Christian life.

How to Stop Everyone From Nagging You (A Special Post for Kids, Spouses and the Occasional Parent!)

Note: Tired of having to constantly remind others to do what they should be doing? Share the somewhat silly post below, then have a family discussion about the suggestions in the article. Why is having to be constantly reminded to do something, a possible sign of a “heart” problem? What needs to change in the ways you interact with one another?

Are you tired of everyone nagging you? Ever wonder why they don’t know you are already well aware of what they are constantly bothering you about? What if I told you there is a method you can use to eliminate almost all of the nagging people do that bothers you?

This method involves an exercise that will take a little work at first, mainly because you probably have several people bugging you about different things. It’s easy once you get the hang of it though, and will usually stop any future nagging as soon as you use it.

Step 1: Make a list of every person who nags you. Beside their name, list the things they are constantly bugging you about. This list needs to be very thorough or the method won’t work well.

Step 2: Accept that these things are very important to the person listed beside them. The reasons don’t really matter – you probably wouldn’t think they were all that great anyway. You just have to accept that the quirks that make them so lovable include an unreasonable expectation that you do these things consistently and in a manner they consider timely.

Step 3: Remind yourself of the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Is there a special possession you don’t want people to borrow without asking or perhaps even touch? Or something you are having to constantly remind others to do because it is important to you? Would you want them to respect your wishes, even if they thought you were being silly about it? Then you need to give the people that are nagging you the same respect about the things that are important to them.

Step 4: This step is crucial. Get up right now and do everything on that list. If it is something that needs to be done on a regular basis, do it immediately whenever the opportunity arises (like putting dirty clothes in the hamper).

That’s it! Repeat the exercise whenever you notice someone has begun nagging you. If you are really paying attention, you can complete the exercise before they even have a chance to nag you. That generally leaves them speechless for a time.

Remember, as unreasonable as others’ requests may seem, they are critically important to them. You will most likely never convince them those things are optional or unimportant. Your time is better spent completing the exercise, thereby giving yourself the peace you so richly deserve!

Fun Ways to Add Family Quality Time

You know you should be spending more time together as a family, but when you are together…Well, things seem to not go so smoothly. Everyone is in different rooms. Or maybe in the same room, but engrossed in their personal devices. Or everyone starts getting on each others’ nerves and you spend more time separating your kids than bonding with them and teaching them.

If you’ve gone to the trouble to clear your schedules a bit to create some intentional quality family time, taking a few extra minutes to plan can help things go more smoothly. Your family is used to entertaining themselves, doing whatever it is they personally want to do – it’s no longer necessary to negotiate the sharing of the one tv in the house.

Not having to compromise, means entertainment has become a bit selfish. What everyone else wants to do with their time is of little consequence. No wonder conflicts can erupt when suddenly a family who can usually do whatever they want for entertainment is now forced to agree on something and do it together for a period of time.

No worries though! A few well planned, fun, family activities will keep your children engaged and asking for more family time. Not everything has to be overtly religious. It’s amazing how many opportunities you will have for teaching your kids about what God wants them to do in the course of something simple like playing a board game together.

There are a million things you can do together as a family, that give you plenty of opportunities to bond, teach and model. Here are some of the things our family loved to do when our daughter was younger.

  • Family Game Night – Kids love playing board games with their parents. Library book sales and yard sales often have board games for sale for a couple of dollars. Our Five Below store even has a lot of fun games for $5 or less.
  • International Night. This was a huge hit for a variety of reasons in our house. I cooked several recipes from the “mystery” country. They were easy to find on the internet or you can buy many types of cuisine already prepared in many areas. The rest of the family tried to guess the country as we ate their most famous dishes. Often we would also listen to their music, try a few words of their language or participate in a few other things from the culture. It’s also a great way to introduce missions to your kids.
  • After dinner family walks. Recently, I was in Ukraine. It seemed like every family in my neighborhoods in two different cities went for family walks after dinner. Along the way, they were talking and playing with their children. They even continued their post dinner walks when school started.
  • Family projects. Whether it’s making a tarp into a car track for an orphanage or cleaning the garage, working together on a project is great. Often, these are things you normally do, but separately. So instead of everyone being assigned a different room to clean, for example, everyone works together on the same room.
  • Making cookies. This is a classic for a reason! What’s more fun than baking cookies together? Sugar cookies that you can also decorate are always great. They don’t have to be Christmas cookies either. After enjoying a few of your creations, take the rest to someone who could use a little cheer and company – as a family.
  • Exploring. Whether it’s geocaching or visiting a new area of town (or a new town), exploring can be a great bonding experience. Let your kids help plan the adventure for even more quality family time.
  • Picnics. Take a blanket and take-out if you don’t want to cook and hit the road. Picnics are great conversation starters. Don’t forget to take a frisbee for more family fun after you finish eating. (When the weather is bad, indoor picnics and “camping” are usually a huge hit with kids.)

So grab your kids and start spending time together. Having fun as a family is great. It strengthens family bonds and gives you chances to slip in little bits of God’s wisdom from time to time. It also gives you a chance to model godly behaviors for your kids and chances to see your kids’ hearts more clearly. Plus, you are creating wonderful memories you will all cherish for years to come.

Is Family Time Really Necessary?

If you read any book or article on parenting, the author usually suggests plenty of “family time”. Yet, millions of families around the world barely see each other and their kids seem to be turning out just fine. Or are they? Is family time really that important? And what exactly are you supposed to be doing during this mysterious “family time”?

Believe it or not, family time was part of God’s plan. Twice in Deuteronomy (11:9 and 6:7) God tells parents to spend lots of time every day teaching their children His Words. He doesn’t call it family time, but if you are teaching them at home, as you walk along the road, when you get up and when you lie down – that’s quite a bit of time interacting with your children in meaningful ways during the day.

And that is what family time is really about – creating stronger relationships with your children and teaching them directly or indirectly the things God wants them to know. In fact, that famous verse in Proverbs about training up your child in the way he should go (22:6) implies parents are actually the spiritual coaches for their children. If you have ever had a coach – especially a successful one – you know how much time and effort they put into coaching each player as well as the team.

Listing the benefits of quality family time would take an entire article. Almost every study that gauges children who are healthy and successful usually mentions family time as a contributing factor. Other studies examining risky behaviors almost always mention that young people who do not participate in risky behaviors usually have more quality family time than young people who take unhealthy risks.

Sometimes this is presented as having family meals, while often it is just mentioned in general. Regardless, family time makes a huge positive difference in the life of any child – perhaps especially a child who is being raised to become a productive Christian. Your kids can’t learn everything God wants them to know from attending even the best church in the world. There’s just too much teaching and coaching that needs to be done. To be done successfully, you will need to spend a lot of intentional time with your kids.

So assuming you create time in your busy schedules for family time, what exactly should you be doing during that time together? Should you be preaching sermons to your kids? Can you have fun together and count it as family time?

There are actually a lot of fun, meaningful things you can do doing your family time each day. In our next post, we will share some specific ideas of things you can do with your kids. In the meantime, pull out your family calendar and schedule some family time each day. It will provide long term benefits for your children that will last years beyond their childhood.