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How to Make Your Child Question Your Love

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“She’s not doing very well this year in school. I keep getting calls from her teacher,” my friend told me. She went on to explain the situation, with her second-grade daughter playing on a tablet right next to her. I wondered, Is her daughter listening?

As I started paying attention, I heard parents talking about their kids to other adults, right in front of their kids all over the place. “She’s had two meltdowns today.” “He’s not very good at sports.” “She’s not a natural like her sister.” “He’s been so whiny today; he’s driving me nuts.”

All of this was probably true. And in some cases, maybe the kids weren’t paying attention. But what if their kids were internalizing every word? We all want to raise confident kids who know they are loved. But here is how talking about your kids’ weaknesses and mistakes in front of them may have a negative affect on them.

It stifles their growth.

When we talk about our kids’ mistakes and weaknesses in front of them, it causes them to believe that they can’t improve — that this is who they are. Instead of reaching higher to meet their potential, they shrink lower.

It makes the child think you don’t believe in him/her.

Our kids listen to what we say about them. Like the words “ice cream” and “shots,” their ears perk up when they are the topic of conversation. When you say: “He’s not very good at sports,” he thinks: “Mom doesn’t believe in me. She doesn’t believe I can improve.” She thinks: “Mom only sees the bad things I do.”

It can cause more misbehavior, therefore perpetuating the problem.

There is a saying, “What we focus on will magnify.” Putting the magnifying glass on your child’s weaknesses can make mountains out of molehills. Yes, we need to be in tune with our child and help her creatively tackle problems, but discussing it with random people in front of our kids isn’t wise.

I once had a friend who often talked about her daughter at the bus stop. Every time she had a “bad morning,” she would share it with everyone there. Without fail, her daughter would break into a crying fit. “See?” the mother would say. “She’s just a mess today.” Maybe she was, but the mother’s careless talk was embarrassing her and making matters worse.

It breaks down trust.

When you have a best friend, you trust him or her with your biggest secrets, mistakes, and fears. You share these things with your friend because you trust that he or she will keep them confidential. What if she shared them with other people? What if she shared them with others right in front of you, with an air of disdain? In the same way, you know everything about your child. You are his or her best friend right now. When you say, “She’s not doing well in school this year,” it breaks down her trust in you. It can hinder her future desire to talk with you about her struggles.

We’ve all done this from time to time. Why? Because motherhood is hard. We need support, and so we need to be able to confide in our friends. We need to vent, seek advice, and hear we are not alone! But considering the time and place for doing so — i.e., meeting with friends to talk when your kids aren’t around — is crucial. It does require a little more planning and a lot more self-control.

How can you build up your child today?


What kinds of things can you say to build others up? What kinds of things tear people down?

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