Out of their love and the desire to help their children, parents can’t prevent themselves from giving advice. But sometimes, along with the right advice, parents unwittingly end up giving wrong advice to their children. Here’s a list of a few things that parents should never tell their children.
1. ‘Playing is a waste of time’: Once children start going to school, parents start curtailing their playtime. And, as they progress to higher classes, parents miss no opportunity in telling their children that instead of wasting their time playing games, they should focus more on doing better in academics. This just piles up stress on children and, eventually, makes them buckle under pressure. Teach them to balance both work and play.
2. ‘Don’t be afraid to tell the world what you feel’: When parents tell their child to speak what is on his mind, they also imply that everyone would listen to what he says with rapt attention. But that’s not the case. Not everyone would be a willing listener to what your child wants to say, be it while he is speaking from a stage, participating in a classroom debate or in informal conversations. This can confuse and anger a child. And, as he can’t object to what the audience is doing, he may be forced to suppress his feelings. So, while telling a child to speak what’s on his mind, prepare him to face the fact that what he says may go unheard or may be misunderstood. Tell him also that it isn’t wise to spell out what he feels always. He will have to exercise prudence in deciding what to say, when to say and whom to say it to.
3. ‘Just focus on your future’: Repeatedly telling children to do everything with an eye on a better future takes away the fun from growing up. Children who are constantly reminded to get good grades or cultivate winning habits tend to become anxious and suffer from high levels of stress. Instead, parents should motivate them to work towards short-term goals as well. Such focus will help children perform better. And, when they see the results, it will motivate them to keep improving. It will also improve their self-esteem and increase their happiness quotient - these are two essential ingredients for success.
4. ‘Look at her; why can’t you be like her?’: No two children are alike. Parents understand this fact very well, yet they still can’t prevent themselves from comparing their children with their peers. Although the intention behind comparing their child with her peers is to encourage and motivate her, it does exactly the opposite. Comparing your child with others can demotivate her and hurt her self-esteem.
Parents must be clear about the message they are conveying to their children in the form of advice as the message will stay with them throughout life.
— Dr Vasuki Mathivanan, Counselling Psychologist, Chennai
5. ‘Keep yourself busy; don’t remain idle’: To make their children stay ahead of others, most parents nowadays want them to keep themselves busy learning everything possible. As a result, children’s schedules are crammed with different activities and classes. This leaves them with little time to unwind and enjoy their life. Give them the time to take a walk in the park, play unhindered with others their age, read a comic book or just lie down and daydream. Parents should understand that ‘me-time’ helps children de-stress and prepare for their next move.
6. ‘You should win always’: With shrinking resources and increasing competition, parents want their children to win in everything they take part in. What they forget to teach their children is empathy and compassion. So, along with fostering the winning attitude in your child, also tell him how to show empathy and compassion. Also, life is not only about situations where your child will keep winning always. Therefore, teach him to accept loss graciously and learn from the experience. This will be a valuable life-lesson you impart to your child.
7. ‘Make friends only with studious children’: Most parents keep a hawk’s eye on their child’s friendships and keep probing to know how her friends are faring in studies. If parents find that any of their child’s friends is not doing well in studies, they immediately start voicing their disapproval of the company their child is keeping. Parents want their child to only befriend children who do well in academics, in the process ignoring all the other good qualities her friend may have. Parents should stress on good qualities and common interests to be the basis of friendships rather than studies alone.
Although the worst advice parents give their child may seem harmless, its implications may be quite severe later in life. So, before you give your child any piece of advice, think well about the message you may be giving your child through your advice.
Validated by Dr Vasuki Mathivanan, counselling psychologist. She is also the President of Chennai Counsellors' Foundation (CCF).