Can you believe that simply changing the way you say things to your child can have a significant impact on their self-perception?
It’s a tough job parenting and part of it is to steer our children, but the days can soon feel as though they’re full of corrections.
Did you know there are two distinct ways that we can correct? One makes observations and the other points the finger. Shame!
For example, observations can be:
The toys haven’t been cleared away
Those words have hurt my feelings
When you don’t put your shoes on we run late, which is difficult because...
Oliver was upset when the car was taken from him
Oh dear! The milk has tipped over
Observations focus on the behaviour, not on the child.
Shame has a different language:
You haven’t cleared up the toys,
you’ve been so messy today
You never listen to me.
You always make us late
Don’t be difficult
Look what you just did
You should know better than that
Shame feels foolish and humiliating. It sticks.
If we can focus on the behaviour we don’t build up a bank of shame on our kids. Shame adds up, shame erodes their sense of value.
Regret says "I did."
Shame says “I am.”
Making observations enables the child to evaluate, yes even small children. That helps them to see what’s happened and their responsibility to it, rather than feel a failure.
We point fingers so easily at ourselves and others:
I’m such a fool!
What an idiot!
Simply changing our narrative slightly shifts the weight of the problem.
It’s a very small change in language, but if a child has about 3,650 days before the age of ten, and most days something or someone goes wrong, the small consistencies of every day soon add up.
We can help them to to feel condemned. They can smile over spilled milk - and even take responsibility for it :)