Reigning in our kids language: keeping things in perspective

I started thinking about the way my children speak upon hearing my 2 year old, yes 2 year old, refer to something as “sick”…meaning good, great, really cool! He then began hitting a little white plastic golf ball with a brightly coloured plastic golf stick and let out a delighted “skills!”….”mum!  skills!”. Now I am well aware this is pretty much direct mimicking of his older ‘tween’ brothers, and did sound pretty cute, but it started me questioning the language in general that our children are using.  I have already written about the influence of technology and chat speak acronyms , but there are other aspects of their speech that may need to be reigned in a little.

We know that the way we speak to ourselves, the inner voice in our heads has a large impact on our feelings, emotions and behaviours. It makes sense too then, that the voice we use throughout our day may also affect such emotions, feelings and behaviours.

Often we hear our children talking in extremes and exaggeration.

“I hate her”, “this is the worst day ever” “It is the most disgusting thing in the whole world” Can this extreme language lead to extreme feelings? Do some of these words and phrases stop them from keeping things in perspective? If it is “the worst day ever” when in fact it was just a little boring/annoying/frustrating does this mean they are less able to cope than if they simply said “Today was pretty boring but that’s OK  because tomorrow will be better”.

If so then there is certainly a case for us to try and reign in some of the language they use in order for them to gain that perspective and tone down a catastrophe.

Therefore it may help for us to pick them up on some of this language and remind them that

“I’m furious” may in fact mean “I’m pretty annoyed but…..”

“I can’t do it” could be replaced with “I am going to find this hard but I will give it a go”

“I hate him” can be substituted with “It makes me upset when he does….”

I certainly believe that those that are more flexible in their thinking and their approach to things tend to enjoy far greater mental health and remain less stressed with greater inbuilt coping skills. So it is important that we remind them that whilst some things may be a pain in the butt….they are very rarely the end of the world!

As adults we can all be pretty guilty of this as well, so it is a good to be aware of how we are talking too. Just as my 2 year old is mimicking my older boys, he will also be mimicking me. (and no I don’t use the language “sick” and “skills” so I am certain it is not me he is getting that from). And he does mimic everything so swearing has to be abandoned!

Have a listen to some of the phrases your kids use. Are they catastrophising situations? Do they always talk in extremes?

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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Claireyhewitt

    My two year speaks in extremes, but I don’t believe she fully understands her words right now so we are focussing more on that. At 2 she has no understanding of time and right now is the only now.

    She can get upset because “They are not my friend anymore” if another child just plays with a different toy or she can just as easily want to move onto another toy and say to a child “You are not my friend anymore, I am going on the swings”.

    My big girl, well, she is emotional to the extreme and we are constantly working with her to assist with these thoughts, I imagine we have along way to go, to ensure she doesn’t negative talk to herself as she grows.

    1. Martine

      It is pretty common for little kids to talk in these extremes, but I think just being aware helps us to ensure it doesnt get out of hand as they get older.

  2. katepickle

    So interesting because my girls also seem to speak in extremes… and I often think it is related to the fact that they worry like champions. We’ve been working on a ‘catastrophe scale’ to try and get my girls to think about how bad something really is, whether it is really worth getting upset about. I think this idea would work really well with that.
    Thanks so much, I always learn something ace when I read your blog!

    1. Martine

      Thanks Kate, I love the idea of a catastrophe scale! I think both adults and children would benefit from that idea. 🙂

  3. Louisa

    This is so interesting! I was just thinking about it this afternoon when Bliss was telling me about all her best friends and how she wants to be best friends with everyone – how to explain the concept of friendship to a 3 yo?! I certainly think that emotional intelligence has a big part to play in not catastrophying (or being unhealthily naive). Thanks for making me think so more about this!

    1. Martine

      Thanks Louisa. All kids do tend to do this but I think if we remain aware of it, especially for those kids who don’t cope quite as well in certain situations, then there is a greater chance of preventing these negative thoughts manifesting as they grow.

  4. Grady Pruitt

    It’s amazing how young kids will pick up on things we do that we don’t even realize we do — until we see it in our kids. I think it is important for us to catch this “extreme” thinking early on. Much of what we say to ourselves comes from things those around us said frequently, so we started saying them to ourselves. We need to set the tone and show them how to think. If they’re talking in extremes, chances are, we are too. And if we want them to stop, we need to stop ourselves.

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Martine

      Thanks Grady, in all areas of parenting we need to remind ourselves how consciously or not, our kids are getting a large portion of their info from us, which includes how to think and behave.

      1. Yanira

        Giggles! I know it’s not funny, but I went through a major case of the flu the week Esme was due. And I was so anenyod that she wasn’t coming yet that it probably made things worse. But I don’t know how I would have handled it being sick and blowing my poor little nose all through labor.As soon as I was feeling a tiny bit better, she came – two weeks late by my calculation. And in retrospect, I was so grateful for that delay!

  5. crashtestmummy

    My kids are still yound and haven’t started talking in extremes unless it’s something really big! I need to be a bit more conscious of my swearing though! CrashGirl doesn’t so much as mimic me, but tells me off!

    1. Martine

      Well as long as it is on everyones radar then it’s ok! 🙂

  6. Mel

    Thankfully my two are too young to have started this. They do mimic everything, but having had parents who were primary school teachers, we haven’t had too much extreme language ourselves so have been pretty lucky with what has been picked up.

    It is amazing to see the mannerisms picked up though – our 3yo will talk to our 2yo the way we talk to him when we’re upset, but on the flip side, they both have wonderful manners with each other and can role play so nicely together. I think its about finding that balance. They’re going to pick up so much more when they start school, and so long as we can be a good influence and teach them whats right and wrong, rather than to just mimic everything they hear, then its a good start.

    Haven’t had to deal with the extremes yet, but hubby and I are both level headed and don’t talk in extremes ourselves so the kids haven’t had anything to pick up on. Our son is pretty good with tantrums when he doesn’t get his way, so I guess thats a form of extreme? We say no and its the end of the world and requires a tantrum?

    1. Martine

      Yes sometimes listening to our kids is a good mirror for ourselves! And absolutely it Is all about balance….and tantrums whilst perfectly normal can be a form of extremes when it is a reaction to something that doesn’t go their way. Again it is about being consistent in our approach so that they learn that whilst they don’t get the answers they want, the result will not be the end of the world and they will begin to learn their own coping skills.

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