Sunday, August 20, 2017

Stop saying "I don't care" to your children...

Mom2MomEd Blog: Stop saying "I don't care" to your children
"I don't care..."

Three little words that can have huge impact if not used with intention.

A few years ago, I found myself saying "I don't care" in response to my son asking if he could play video games. I'm not sure why, but I stopped short and thought about that phrase and made a conscious decision to try not to use it again unless I truly don't care about something.

The fact is, I DO care about my son and I DO care about what he does and how he spends his time. What I meant when I told my son "I don't care" in answer to his request to play video games was, "I'm not concerned with whether or not you play video games right now; however, I am concerned with whether or not it brings you happiness, whether or not you are being responsible, whether or not you are safe and well."

Just as many of us--women in particular--have a tendency to say "I'm sorry" as a reflex to any number of things when we have no reason to apologize, many of us also say "I don't care" in a similar manner. 

By saying "I don't care" to your child, you are sending a bigger message than simply "I don't care if you spend time playing a video game right now" or "I don't care if you eat carrots instead of apple slices." 

You are sending a message that your child might internalize as meaning "I don't care about YOU." It may not be your intent, but often what we intend and what the person on the other end of the message hear are not the same. Like with many negative messages, saying "I don't care" too often and in a careless manner may unintentionally ingrain in your child the message that you truly don't care about them--that they have no value to you.

Our language has power and we have a responsibility to use that power carefully, particularly when it comes to our children. 

Instead of "I don't care" I've made an effort over the last few years to say things like:
  • "Sure, you can play video games as long as you finished your chores for the day."
  • "Yep, you can have the last cookie! I bet it will taste terrific!"
  • "You want to stay up an extra 30 minutes? I suppose you can if you set your alarm clock properly for the morning."
  • "You don't want bananas? What fruit would you like?"
  • "You know what? I don't have an answer for that, but I love you a bunch!"
What phrases do you say regularly to your kids, spouse, partner, or friends without much thought that might actually be doing more harm than good? What might you say instead?
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