“You are ALWAYS late!” “You NEVER do what you are asked.” “You are ALWAYS bothering your sister!” “You NEVER stop whining!” “Why do you NEVER come when I call you?”
Do you ever find yourself talking to your children about some of the things they do over and over again a bit like that? Do you wonder why no matter how much you point out that the same problem is going on over and over, nothing is changing?
The problem is, you are never thinking about how to talk to your kids. Plus you always forget to be patient don’t you? (How did this sentence make you feel? Defensive at all? OK, wait, read on… I don’t really mean to be mean.)
Absolute words like always and never tend to elicit negative feelings. Did that happen when you read the bit about not being patient? For most people, there is often an immediate need to jump on the defensive at the sound of those absolute words like always and never.
Our minds naturally tend to wander towards exploring the truth of those “always and never” statements and because of that, listening is totally shut down. Plus for some it can lead to just wanting to argue! Who wants to really talk and connect after such accusations?
For much of a child’s early life, our words are building their story. When we use absolute words we inadvertently guide children towards believing in a story that may not actually be quite true. Perhaps your child pokes their sibling once in a while, enough that it bugs you, but is it really an always? The more you tell her so, the more she may believe that…and then she may as well just poke some more!
The next time you find yourself ready to fire off one of those “You are ALWAYS late” can you try to think about what you can do to help or change the situation in a positive way instead?
Ask yourself this: is this really an ALWAYS or NEVER situation? Is it something that could change with a little problem solving?
What happens if you focus on the things that you can change or ways that you can empower your child to change?
What if you try to make observations that are more fact or solution based?
For example if your child is sometimes late: “I noticed it is taking you a bit long to get ready to go to school, can we figure something out together so we can all be on time?” or “Oh, we are behind schedule. What do you still need to get done before you are ready?”
Observations and opening a chance for dialogue is really a wonderful step towards truly connecting with our children. Those absolute words really just get in the way. Yes, it’s hard to rewrite our script and erase those absolute words, so, don’t feel like you can never say never ever again or that you always have to get it right, but will try to avoid them and see if there is a difference?
Ok, so tell me, what are the things that are driving you to say ALWAYS and NEVER?