I believe everything I hear… I understand jokes and stuff but never suspect anyone of deceit. I have never figured out who the killer was before the reveal in Perry Mason and I’m fairly certain I would be the world’s worst detective. I’m gullible. I’m working on it.
You know who else is gullible? Children.
Children are a special kind of gullible. They are forming a whole world-view on the nonsense people tell them. I was listening to my 4yo explain to my 2yo what happens to the poop after it’s flushed, “You see, it goes under the house, down the pipes and then the unicorns stomp on it to make it smell beautiful again and then we drink it. Isn’t it wonderful?”
My 2yo looked at her and said, “Yeah!”
We parents tell our kids some pretty outlandish things ourselves.
Here’s a list of some really unproductive statements to tell your children:
“You are so special!”
Do you know any grown ups like that? They expect special treatment, special accommodations, easier work loads because you know, they’re special? I sort hate “special” people. I don’t have time for you. You’re average, just like the rest of us. Get to work. There is nothing wrong with being average. Average people do exceptional things all the time. If it tears you up thinking about not telling your child they are special then just mix it up a little and say, “You are special to me!” Which is way more true and healthy.
“When you grow up you can be anything you want to be!”
Hmmm… This is true in theory I guess. I mean within reason, of course you can’t become a poop-stomping unicorn (it’s just not in the cards). This statement seems really empowering, but I would add, “If you consistently make good choices and discipline yourself and you have a few lucky breaks, you can be anything you want to be when you grow up… within reason!”
“He’s being mean to you because he likes you”.
No. That is not how things work. Stop telling little girls that mean little boys like them. That is twisted and I know you don’t mean it and you certainly don’t want your daughter to believe that for the rest of her life.
“You’re the smartest person ever!”
Just take a moment and think about what would happen if that kid believed you and thought to themselves, “Yes. I am the smartest person ever. That means I know more than everyone else. Everyone should start listening to me.” You ever meet a kid like that? They suck.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Let’s be honest, we ask this for our own amusement. We aren’t actually going to start working on their application to the NASA preschool (wouldn’t it be amazeballs if NASA had a preschool though?) just because our adorable little bed-wetter said that they want to be an astronaut. But what’s the harm in asking? The thing that is especially bothersome about this question is that it makes children believe that you can only be ONE thing. You can be a police officer OR a fire fighter OR a teacher. Last week someone asked me what I did and I said, “Oh gosh, I’m a full-time mother, a part-time social worker, a children’s book author, a blogger and an aspiring school counselor”. Growing up is stressful enough without being asked what you are going to be when you grow up every month… since you were three.
“Big girls (or boys) don’t cry”.
Yes they do. All the freaking time. Do you want your kid to grow up with some weird aversion to tears? Thinking they are immature. No, they’re super healthy and super normal. You might try out the statement, “It’s okay to cry”. Feels good to say it out loud doesn’t it?
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all”.
The proudest moments of my life have been those times when I had the courage to stand up and say, “That’s not right.” There are REAL problems in the world that people AREN’T talking about because the words are accusatory. Some ideas, people and dogmas need accused. What if FDR felt too squeamish to speak the words that involved us in WW2? What if MLK had been too afraid to talk about his dream at the Lincoln Memorial? Wouldn’t you rather raise a child who was brave in their words and their actions?