I am sure you have heard some of these:
“If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”
“Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about!”
“Wait until your father get’s home!”
“Eat the things on your plate – you are lucky to have food. There are starving people in China.”
There are some things that just fall out of our mouths – then we realize – OMG, I sound just like my parents. This is the one thing we all promised ourselves when we heard these “gems” – that we would never say these things. And then we do. Again and again.
We try not to. We become intentional noticing what we say until some child just puts us in that “place” – that, “If I didn’t love you and the neighbors weren’t watching I would leave you on the corner.” Okay, something all parent say – well, maybe something that just my parents said to me. Our kids push us to the limit of our sanity and then our parents words come tumbling out of our mouths.
Why We Say What Our Parents Said
So in one view, we say these things because we learned them from our parents and they worked for them. So, if it works, use it. Perhaps just review your repertoire of parent catch phrases and choose those that will have the needed impact on your kids. Keep those in your active file. Let some of the old and dated ones go because they get more a laugh than the intended or hoped-for response.
In the other view, what parent scripting in your head needs to be replaced with a more present and mindful approach? Instead of defaulting into what you have heard other parents say and do, could you be tuned in to the situation, manage your emotions and judgement long enough to gather some information and consider your options? With greater attention to what is happening in the situation and to your emotions, you could respond in the moment instead of defaulting to your parenting quips and scrips – which are less effective.
What To Say Instead
So maybe replace “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” with “What do you think the impact on you (your safety, health, etc.) would be if you acted like this (whatever the situation is)?” – asked calmly, directly and intentionally.
“Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about!” could shift to, “I need to understand what you are upset about because I can’t help you through all the tears. What could you do to calm down so we can talk about this?” – asked calmly, directly and intentionally.
Notice when you sound like your parents – when your parent’s parenting becomes your default. Do their words just come falling out of you? What if instead, you stopped, thought about the situation, considered other options then chose one you think would have a better outcome? To do this, you have to tap into your inner zen – that means that you have to be able to stay calm, listen for information and choose wisely from the options. Only then can you create your own great parenting phrases that someday your kids will inherit. But this time, your phrases will be calm, wise and mindful – not reactionary statements delivered in frustration.