Have you ever said...
"You never put your toys away"
"If you don't stop you will never come to the store with me again"
"You and your sister always fight"
As parents, we want to avoid saying words like never or always.
Words like never and always are very finite and harsh. Telling a child they "never clean up", or "never obey" makes them think...
1. Any effort they have put forth to obey or clean up in the past has been worthless.
2. They don't need to do better or try harder, because no matter what they do, it wont ever be good enough. They will never be able to obey, or clean up the right way. So why try.
These words actually bring out the behaviors in our children, that we say we don't like. They bring out the behaviors we are trying to stop when we say them.
These words also make children feel worthless. They are labels just like calling a child dumb or shy. If we call a child dumb they will start to believe they are dumb, and actually become what we label them. The same with never and always.
When we use words like never and always in threats, it is almost impossible to carry out the threats or enforce the consequences.
Telling our child, "we will never take them to the store again..."
Really? We are really going to be able to go the rest of our lives and never take them into a store with us again? Of course we can't do that. Kids can see right through those threats. Given that the threat is empty, why is the child going to obey? They aren't, because they know that no matter how they act, or what they do, they will get to go to a store with you again. We can't enforce that threat, so they continue to act out.
Never and always can be used to give compliments, "you are always so kind to your sister." Or..."you never misbehave." This is still tricky. Are they always kind, and do they really never misbehave? Of course not. We have to be cautious with how and when we use them.
Have you ever said "never?"
p.s. my husband grew up with a lot of disfunction in his home. A lot of threats, never's and always. I still laugh about a conversation he had with our son when he was about 4. He said "if you don't obey, we will never celebrate your birthday again."
Our son looked at him, laughed, and said "yeah right dad."