I stopped telling my kids they’re the best

 

Transcript from my daughter’s recent meltdown:

“You can’t tell me what to do! I hate you! You’re the WORST mom in the world!”

[door] SLAM!

How old would you guess the speaker is? 14? 17? A premenstrual bridezilla of 29?

Bitch just turned 5.

My daughter has been throwing a lot of tantrum lately, which stinks. But it is her language that is worrisome. Lots of superlatives and lots of judging words.

It took the negative adjectives to make me appreciate that my children also dole out lots of positive judgements, too.

Me: How did you get to be so sweet?

3-year-old: Because you’re my best mommy.

+++

5-year-old: You’re the prettiest mommy in the world! (Bitch don’t lie.)

 

And where did they get these? Well, duh. From this bitch!

I started paying attention to how I speak to my kids. I was horrified to realize that all day long I judge them:

tough love

You’re such a good person.

You’re the smartest kid!

You’re the cutest boy.

I have the best children!

 

Judge, judge, judge and judge.

I’m pretty sure I don’t judge to the negative, but I should point out here that one of my favorite sayings — “I don’t judge. To your face.” — always makes me chuckle. Certainly my children absorb this attitude by osmosis.

Case in point: The morning after the aforementioned meltdown, I faced Helena as she tucked into her scrambled eggs. “We need to talk about how you speak to me,” I said. “You can be mad, but you can’t tell me I’m a bad mom. I never say, ‘You’re a bad kid.'”

“No,” Helena said, mouth full, glancing at me sideways. “But you think it.”

The takeaway is this: If my language elevates my children to super-human heights, they deduce that they’re also subject to being the worst. If I tell you you’re infallible, and then you find yourself acting like an ass on occasion, then you must be the worst, because the best can’t act like an ass.

Then they throw that lesson right in my face.

So for the past few weeks I’ve made a conscious effort to be less judgmental. Fewer superlatives in my praise of my children. I aim to focus on the deed (“That is unacceptable behavior”), while underscoring that people are basically good, but also complicated humans (“That is really mean what you said to your sister. You are a good kid, I know you don’t want to hurt her feelings”).

When Helena spontaneously kissed her brother while watching Dodgeball this evening, my impulse was to coo: “You are the sweetest girl ever!”Instead, I said, “You are really sweet, Helena.”  Because the bitch is.

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6 thoughts on “I stopped telling my kids they’re the best

  1. I am focusing more on giving my son compliements on things he has worked towards. Instead of saying his is the best at something. There are days were he is a pain in the ass and it is hard to remember the “right” things to say. In my head I think you are acting like a little shit, but I try to say something about it not being acceptable. Seriously hard work with a 20 month old.

  2. Good stuff. The bitch who raised me did say one good thing that stuck: “Don’t say good girl. Say good job.” We should know we’re good just because we’re breathing, and what we choose to do can be either good or not so much.

    A great lesson encapsulated in your always fabulous humor.

    Being a parent isn’t for the weak, that’s for sure.

  3. I would never call my daughter a bitch, but I certainly think it and she is 14. Sigh, only a few more years.

    Great article and good tips.

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