“What were you thinking!?”

Have you said this to your kids before? I have.

I looked at this statement and what I saw was that it was not kind, hurtful. Here is why:

  • There is no real acceptable answer to the question. The question is not meant to be answered, it’s meant to condemn.
  • The asker of the question has already decided that what was done was wrong. There is no seeking to understand.
  • The tone of voice that usually accompanies this statement is one of disgust or judgment. This alienates and separates, it’s a relationship killer.
  • It shames rather than build skills.
  • The statement conveys the message that the child is not smart, stupid even. This is not a good message to send, especially not repeatedly. Kids grow into your expectations.

There are better ways to help kids learn from mistakes.

  1. Aim to teach rather than shame.
  2. Use positive tone of voice.
  3. Normalize mistakes because everyone makes mistakes.
  4. Give the child the benefit of the doubt.
  5. Focus on solutions and empower your child to address his/her own mistakes.

This all might sound like this.

“Looks like you broke a glass. That’s okay. We all make mistakes. Sometimes I break things too. What is your plan now? How are you going to clean this up? And, what are you going to do differently next time so the glass doesn’t break”?

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