‘Do as I say, not as I do’: On second thought…

Your child will follow your example, not your advice” – Unknown

“I am such an idiot!”  Painful words to hear our children say. In my therapy practice, more and more parents are expressing concern about the harsh words children say to themselves – and at a very young age. And I certainly want my children to learn that even if they make a poor choice or are unable to figure something out, they are not stupid. Everyone makes mistakes – we are not “idiots,” no matter what difficulties we might encounter.

But…. how can I teach that to my children when I say it to myself!?! And in front of them no less! Two times in the past 3 months, in front of my son, I declared, “I am such an idiot!” One time was not even after a mistake – I actually had an insight into a better option – ostensibly calling myself an idiot for having a useful realization. Yikes!

The other time, well that was after making quite a big gaff… but still, I would never want to model for my children that we name-call and berate ourselves when we make mistakes. Yes, I made a mistake, a mistake that led to my son getting his first real taste of road rash, nonetheless. But am I an idiot? No – (as I continue to remind myself when I recall the incident) – I am a sleep-deprived parent of a brand new May-day baby. And sadly, but understandably, I am facing natural consequences for this mistake… My son will not ride his trail-a-bike with me right now. Ouch! That is painful enough – I don’t need to add a heaping dose of self-criticism.

After his wounds were tended to, we had a very good talk about this… well, more like I talked at him about my error in calling myself an idiot and how I hope he knows that he is not an idiot when he makes a mistake… Blah… Blah… Blah (he is only 4 1 /2 yrs. old after all). So really, if I want him to learn this message of self-kindness and compassion when we make mistakes, I need to show it – in what I say & what I do.

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