I was working at the hospital one day when my child called me for permission to do something. I didn't give him the permission he wanted, so he was full of questions about why. I got so frustrated that I finally told him that I was the mom ad that's all that mattered.
When I got off the phone, I glanced over to see the unit child psychiatrist shaking his head at me.
"Kathy" he said, "you know better than that."
He was right. I did know better than to give a blanket statement like that. Going one step further I thought about the stupid things that we parents say to our kids with the expectation that they will still turn out the way we want them to. For instance, I want my child to be leader, not a follower. That means he should be questioning authority instead of blindly following directions, even if I am that authority. Talk about mixed signals!
"I'm the parent, that's why." We parents use this statement like it explains everything. Just how exactly do we plan for statements like these to lead our children to ask questions and interpret details? Sure, sometimes kids ask us questions because they want to use our answers to get the response they were originally searching for. Sometimes though, they genuinely want to know the hows and whys of things. Keep in mind that if you don't explain things to them, someone is bound to and it may not be the explanation you wanted them to have.
"Do as I say, not as I do." This one is laughable. I don't know about you, but that one never worked on me as a kid. If anything, it made me pay more attention to exactly what my parents were doing that I wasn't supposed to. Instead, we need to lead by example. The things that we do and the things that we condone are the very things that our children are going to perceive to be acceptable.
"Okay?" Have you ever told your child to do something, and then followed it up with something like "okay" or "alright"? Do you realize that this insinuates that they have an option? It not only gives a false idea that the answer to the question matters, but it also makes you look like you can't really make a firm decision. The bottom line is that if you want your kids to respect your decision, you actually have to make one.
"What 'til your father gets home." This one might be a bit behind the times or you might use a modified version like "Don't make me call your father" or something similar. Either way, you're insinuating that you can't be the parent and/or that you need some backup. Is there a faster way to tell your child that you're at a loss as a parent?
"It's only growing pains." Parents understand that children are going through growing pains in more ways than one. The problem is that kids don't understand that concept just yet. You might actually have to sit down and explain exactly what you mean. If discussing emotions and the finer points of life makes you nervous, puberty is really going to do a number on you!
You don't ever want to see the day when your kids can't talk to you about something. Again, if they don't talk to you they're going to talk to someone and there are certainly areas of life when it's important for you to be the one they talk to. Remember to say what you mean and mean what you say so that your kids know it's safe or them to do the same!
References: Personal and professional experience