I was at a store the other day chatting with the owner and my son was getting restless- I could see it was time to go. he was sorting the shopping baskets at the front of the store and stacking and re-stacking them when some of them fell. The owner, nice enough , used phrase that just makes me rankle.
she said “can you clean that up?” And when he didnt leap into action she followed up with ” a NICE boy would clean up that mess” GULP. Implying that he must be a bad boy becasue he wasn’t cleaning it up STAT.
She didn’t allow for the fact that he was looking at the mess and taking his time best figure out how to put it away or that maybe the crash startled him or maybe he was overwhelmed and embarrassed.
I was pretty annoyed actually. I cleared up the mess and smiles at him and said something reassuring and I could see she was irritated that I was handling this the way she wanted and was biting her tongue.
Words do have meaning and what we say has impact. I have heard many people use variations on this phrase… ” Like Good boy!” when toddler finishes his food or takes first steps or sings a song.
How can they not think that if they don’t do it they we may disapprover and think them “bad” ?
I try an tell people that they should say truthful things. it is NOT true that a good boy would help clean up. It is true to say ” I would LIKE it if you cleaned up” or better state the problem and offer a solution like ” wow that’s a big mess- what should be do?” and frankly in my house “nothing” might be a valid answer.
When watching my kids learn something I made an effort to phrase things this way and became second nature. Like ” Gee- i love those bright colors” vs/ ” What a good artist you are!” Or ” I love watching you ju8mp- it looks like so much fun!” vs. ” Wow- What a great jumper you are!” rather than labelling things good/bad.
Example of TRUE things will stem from my own feelings. Like, It is a big help to me when you carry the groceries for me or I appreciated it when you cleared table tonight. Those things are true. A false statement is “You need to clean your room” truth is “You are having a sleepover this weekend and you told me you were embarrassed last time when your room is a mess”
This is good way to speak to every one – husband included! Like “Stop belittling me” might not be true.. saying ” when you are sarcastic I fell like you are belittling me ” IS true.
Maybe I am being too politically correct but this way of thinking I think has helped my communication a lot with both my kids and other people close to me.