Monday, August 29, 2011

Be Careful What You Say

We hear it over and over from everyone around us - how our children are little parrots, how they hear everything we say and are likely to repeat it at the worst of times.  And we ALL know it's true.

When my son was about 2, he picked up "the D-word" somewhere, and every time something would go wrong in his life, out it would come.  He failed at a video game? "D-word."  He dropped something? "D-word."  I hung my head in shape when he said it in the grocery store, or the church play group.  Eventually he learned to stop saying it, or it stopped being cool, or something along those lines.

Now that he's a 3-year-old, it's even more pronounced.  When he drops a toy on his foot and says "aw, fiddlesticks!" I laugh.  When a toy breaks into pieces in his hands and he says "aw, w-t-f?" (letters not words), I sort of frown at him.  Oops.  I should probably stop saying that one.

But what people don't usually mention is how kids will easily pick up on the GOOD things you say as well.  Like, the best way to teach a kid to say "please" and "thank you" is to say them yourself in the appropriate situation.  But we kind of all know this - it's obvious.  But I never REALLY realized until just this weekend, that this really pertains to EVERYTHING.

We showed up to soccer practice early on Saturday, and while waiting for the coach Luke and I started kicking the ball around.  A little girl from his team walked over and asked to play.  They started kicking it back and forth, and every time the little girl would kick it Luke would tell her "Good kick!  Great job!" "Kick it again!  Yay!"

And my little 2-year-old cheers for me when I do simple tasks, such as using the potty, putting a toy away, or drawing a circle.  "Good JOB, Mom!  Yay, Mom!"

I guess I always knew that positive reinforcement was the way to go, and that it's how we shape them into decent human beings, and teach them how to treat people.  It's how we start preparing them to become good parents when it's their time.

But I spend so much time specifically thinking about what I SHOULDN'T say to my children, that I rarely stop and make sure that I'm saying all the right things.  It feels pretty good to know that I have been, but it woke me up to the fact that what we SHOULD say is more important than what we SHOULDN'T, and I feel like lots of us (parents) have been concentrating on the wrong side of the spectrum.

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