“It’s Okay” – Talking to Children
I don’t have all the answers. Like most of us I probably have more questions than answers. I do have some pretty good ideas, though. For instance think about the way we talk to children. I’ve heard people saying for years that it isn’t what you say; it’s how you say it. Well, what you say is VERY important.
"Just don’t get caught"
There is a lot to consider when choosing our words, especially when we talk to impressionable young children. For example, my mom would say, “I don’t want to see you climbing over the stairway railing.” Then she would get mad at us when we did it anyway. When she asked us why we did what she had “told” us not to do, we wouldn’t have an answer. We just couldn’t make the connection in our minds. She hadn’t actually told us not to do it, she had only told us not to let her see us; in other words, not to get caught. Our interpersonal communications has a lot of conflicting information like that. In our country people are teaching their children, by example, that whatever you want to do is okay, as long as you don’t get caught.
When I cried as a child I was frequently told to “Shhh…” And to me that meant stop crying. In one of my parenting books I read that “Shhh…” is the sound the amniotic fluid makes when the baby is in the womb and therefore it can be used to take them back to the feelings of comfort and safety in the womb and therefore calm them. So, this one is probably acceptable in certain situations depending on how you use it and how you say it.
This one can cause more problems in a lifetime than our good intentions can imagine. This is not to be confused with telling someone that everything will work out in the end: "It’ll be okay." This is the kind of “It’s okay,” we tell a young child when they are hesitant to try something or trust someone: "It’s okay, it’s your Great Uncle." It’s the “It’s okay,” that gets them to take their medicine today but allows someone to push drugs on them later. Am I making sense here? I’ll elaborate:
A few years back I saw a commercial where the message was “Don’t do drugs because it can lead to you doing things you don’t want to do.” A girl and a boy were sitting together on the couch at a party. The girl would get up every few minutes and disappear, presumable to take a hit of a marijuana joint. As the commercial progressed she was more and more inebriated until the point where the boy started to unbutton her blouse. She started to protest until he said, “It’s okay,” and then she stopped protesting. Why? If this had been real life instead of a commercial my theory would be when she was young and her parents said, “It’s okay,” she let her walls down, and thereby her defenses, because she trusted her parents to know what was best for her and that they wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. Now, as a young adult, that comforting phrase has been used against her.
So how do we gauge what we say to our children? Far from being afraid to say anything to them, we need to take just a little extra time and care. Think about what you are really saying with your words and what your true intention is. You can also consider what the long-term consequences might be: if you heard the same phrase as a child how did it affect you? Is it still affecting you today? Do a little forward thinking to save you and your children future problems.
Books for talking to children
Two great books are How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and Wonderful Ways to Love a Child. And as always and all ways, remember the way we treat and talk to our children is the way they will be treated and spoken to by others in their lives. Remember that we are setting up their self-worth in their youth and the way we as parents treat them tells them volumes about what they can expect from the outside world.
Enjoy your children and remember to love, love, love, love, love!!!!!!!!!