Do You Tell Your Children They’re Stupid?

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I’ve written before about the Love and Logic books and how I have tried to implement the strategies in my own parenting. Have you read any of the books yet? You should try it…you may like it!

A strategy that I’ve got down cold is the questioning to resolve conflict technique. I’ve talked my way out of many power struggles just by offering choices in question form. A boy doesn’t want to wear socks? No problem! I ask him if he wants to wear the red ones or the blue ones. He chooses blue and voila! conflict resolved.

I’ve been noticing lately that I fall down completely in another area: leaving the boys to their own devices. I don’t mean we should walk out the front door and let the kids fend for themselves. It’s more about letting them make their own choices in a situation. For example, 2 boys were arguing about whose turn it would be on the computer. I could have told them to flip a coin, but instead I told them to figure it out, unless they wanted my option, which was to shut the computer off.

Not long after, a coin was tossed and the issue settled.

Unfortunately, more often than not I do step in and tell the boys what to do and how to do it. Even yesterday I had difficulty letting The Mercenary shovel snow without my input. Seriously. Why do I have to tell him how to shovel? I definitely need to watch my control freak factor.

Something else that drives. me. crazy: the boys constantly asking me for answers to things instead of figuring it out for themselves. Yesterday TechnoBoy handed me a magazine and asked me to explain a page he clearly hadn’t read. By keeping all the control I’m creating in them a dependency on me that I resent. I’m also fostering laziness and communicating to them that I don’t think they’re smart enough to handle things independently.

Basically, I’m telling them they’re stupid.

I’m not the smartest person on the planet, so I know that I can’t just write this blog post and wake up tomorrow completely changed and ready to react wisely to every situation. Instead, I’m going to try and find some time to reread my Love and Logic book, and then start solving the problem one situation at a time. Will I blow it and talk too much? Yep. That’s so gonna happen. But there will also be times when I get it right. If I keep at it, eventually there will be more successes than failures. Step by step, situation by situation, this can improve.

What about you? What do you tell your children?

Earnest Parenting: help for parents of smart children.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • John @ Curious Cat Investing Blog December 23, 2008, 2:43 pm

    Very good advice. I think we need to give kids more chances to try things for themselves. Let them experiment and learn. And give them opportunities to do so. Some kids get scared to make a mistake. They should learn if you are learning you will make mistakes. Don’t be scared to make mistakes. Just learn from them. And also learn what kind of experiments are safe and what have risks that are too big – stuff you should not try until you understand better. But many things you can just try.

    Reply
  • Kathy Slattengren December 23, 2008, 5:31 pm

    Telling children what to do instead of guiding them to figuring it out themselves can definitely cause problems when they’re teenagers. I’m currently reading the book ‘The Price of Privilege” written by psychologist Madeline Levine. She does a wonderful job documenting some of the serious problems parents can unintentionally contribute to in their teenagers. She says “Parents who persistently fall on the side of intervening for their child, as opposed to supporting their child’s attempts to problem-solve, interfere with the most important task of childhood and adolescence: the development of a sense of self.”

    Reply
  • Multiplication Worksheets December 23, 2008, 11:23 pm

    I think you have some great tips and examples for fostering independence and letting kids figure out things on their own. Problem-solving and conflict resolution are life-skills that kids need to learn on their own.

    But, by stepping in now and again, I don’t think you’re telling children that they’re stupid. I think you’re modeling good choices for them and giving them “ideas” that they’ll be able to use to solve future problems and conflicts.

    I think it’s about choosing your battles– knowing when to step in and knowing when to let them figure it out on their own.

    Reply
  • Wholesale Suppliers December 24, 2008, 1:30 pm

    I don’t think it’s an appropriate word to call kids “stupid.” There are other words that parents can use to scold or reprimand their children aside from the blatant “stupid” word. Personally, I don’t want my kids to grow up using this word themselves. And I don’t want them to grow up with an erroneous perception of themselves.

    Words are powerful. They can make or unmake a nation. Remember Churchill’s speech.

    Reply
  • selena December 26, 2008, 7:02 am

    I agree with you. I don’t want to call my kids by this word. Children are innocent and what they need is some proper guidance and such environment in which they can find their own way. Guiding them in a proper way and solving their queries are the best methods to win their heart.

    Reply
  • Amy December 26, 2008, 7:24 pm

    John, that’s the hardest part for me. I find myself stepping in and trying to tell them everything instead of letting them learn from experience.

    Kathy that sounds like a very good book. I’ll have to check it out.

    Multiplication Worksheets that was a lot of wisdom in your comment. 🙂 I agree completely. The mistake I keep making (almost reflexively) is to tell the children what they should be doing instead of waiting for them to ask and then giving options so they can choose for themselves. I get impatient with their learning process, or don’t want to live with their consequences. In doing so I’m not respecting them as much as I should.

    Wholesale Suppliers and Selena, I’m not using the word “stupid” itself. It’s my actions that tell the boys they’re not smart enough to make their own choices/decisions. Ultimately that message is damaging in and of itself which is why I’m trying to change.

    Reply
  • Acai girl December 29, 2008, 6:06 pm

    Yeah I agree to this to some point. A kid should be given the choice to do something unless they mess up and therefore no longer have the privlage of making choices. Thanks for the article I enjoyed it

    Reply
  • Johnny B. Moon January 2, 2009, 5:12 pm

    parenting is a critical issue. u have to be really careful and undrstnd the child psychology.

    Reply
  • Amy January 7, 2009, 1:26 am

    Acai girl: exactly. Well said. 🙂

    Johnny B. Moon: I agree totally. At the same time I know I’m making mistakes every day. Hopefully they survive me.

    Reply
  • Sandra January 21, 2009, 5:39 am

    Hi, this is a very interesting article. i happen to have a friend who’s been doing this to her son, calling him stupid when he did mistakes and never give him credit when hes done a good job, his son was only 4 yo. And i;ve never seen his eyes as bright as the other kids. he’s just gloomy and im not surprised why. i hope his mother read this article.

    Reply
  • Amy February 3, 2009, 10:12 pm

    Sandra how sad. I hope his mother learns sooner rather than later what a treasure he is…before it’s too late.

    Reply
  • james February 13, 2009, 3:49 am

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Reply
  • Classic Watch Lover February 18, 2009, 1:02 pm

    Hello. Great job. I did not expect this on a Wednesday. This is a great story. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Amy February 22, 2009, 12:36 am

    james, glad to have you join us!

    Classic Watch Lover, glad you liked it!

    Reply
  • marilyn February 25, 2009, 7:17 pm

    I really liked your blog!will chck back soon again thx

    Reply
  • wolverine February 28, 2009, 9:04 am

    Very useful information for me.Have a children is easy,but teach them is very difficult

    Reply
  • Amy March 1, 2009, 1:15 am

    marilyn thanks! hope to see you soon.

    wolverine you are so right.

    Reply
  • Webmaster Forums April 13, 2009, 11:51 pm

    I wasnt aware of all of this, thank you.

    Reply
  • forex robot April 24, 2009, 10:51 am

    Great stuff. Nice to read some well written posts. A long way between them.

    Reply
  • tv episodes May 1, 2009, 5:26 am

    Very nice information. Thanks for this.

    Reply
  • New Age May 1, 2009, 8:30 am

    I Really enjoy Reading Your Blog, it is interesting, inciteful and inspirational. Excellent. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  • Nevi May 20, 2009, 10:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing to others.

    Reply
  • buy acai berry December 20, 2009, 3:54 am

    love em and leave em alone

    Reply
  • J January 26, 2012, 12:16 pm

    I stumbled upon your blog today and am so happy to find some day to day situations that put love and logic into play. I am taking a love and logic class but when I come home it seems harder to apply!! Thank you for your blog posts! very helpful and supportive!

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge January 26, 2012, 5:34 pm

      Thanks, J! Love and logic is amazing, but can be difficult to implement. I recommend using one strategy and getting that one really well established in your habits before moving on to another. Get used to the question thing, then try something else. Otherwise it’s just too overwhelming. Good luck!

      Reply
  • angelica hernandez July 4, 2012, 6:08 pm

    both my parents tell me that im stupid, dumb, slow, brainless, and useless.when i dont do somthing right. It hurts alot when they say all that since im in Special ED. Its all true what they say. I wish i could be smart and make them happy.

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 4, 2012, 11:55 pm

      Angelica, I’m sorry they do that. I don’t believe we should treat our children that way. Special Ed doesn’t make you dumb. It just means you don’t learn the way the public school teaches. Wherever you are in life, you do have the choice to work on moving forward and making life better. Hang in there!

      Reply