What can we do for our parents

Children cannot hear these sentences from their parents often enough

We want the best for our children. And sometimes we overdo it by saying, for example, "You are the most important thing in my life!" Why we are doing them a disservice and which sentences it really is from which a person draws strength for life.

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In the corona crisis, parents spend more time than ever with their children. Time in which families can find each other in a completely new way. Time from which our children could emerge stronger, some think. But is it really that simple? What can we parents do?

The Munich family therapist Anette Frankenberger refers to a quote from the founder of systemic family therapy, Virginia Satir: "Self-worth is communicated." It is not just the actions and gestures of the parents that have an impact on the child's self-worth. But what we SAY is also very important.

Common phrases that are NOT good for our children

In doing so, parents often make a crucial mistake. In our exuberant love we exaggerate the child and thus generate pressure instead of self-confidence - for example with these sentences:

  • I would do anything for you, you are the most important person in my life
  • Nobody can do it better than you
  • You are such a dear child
  • You can do everything
  • You are so great, you are very special!

"We treat our children like little princes and princesses," notes Frankenberger. "Nobody can always do that! The children suspect that too - and later they will definitely know. Because at some point they will experience that there are others who are better, can do a little better or achieve better results."

That is then difficult to cope with. People who were idealized in their childhood would often struggle lifelong with problems: "They will always be busy getting everything done and doing what their parents told them to do justice to."

But how then? After all, each of our children is special, and we want to show them that too!

The key is to be specific

The key note: we should be specific in what we say. A classic example illustrates it. The typical parent reflex when the child shows a picture they have painted:

  • Wow! But you painted that beautifully!

"We often react without reflection - some parents don't even look properly," says Frankenberger. In such moments, it is important to show genuine interest:

  • Tell me what you painted there. What did you think you were doing?
  • I especially like that: how you got the smiling face of the sun

Children cannot hear these words often enough

According to Frankenberger, other sentences from which children can draw strength for life are:

That may sound obvious, but in the experience of the therapist it is often underestimated: "Children hear their parents scolding and grumbling a lot. They then ask themselves very well whether their parents really love them. That is why these words cannot be said often enough. "

After decades of studies, the American therapist John Gottman once stated: In a happy relationship, the positive outweighs the negative with a ratio of 5: 1. "This 'formula of love' applies to couples as well as families. The positive remarks, gestures and deeds must clearly outweigh them," says Frankenberger.

  • I am here / I am with you
  • You are safe

"It is our job as parents to take care of the child, whatever comes. The child does not have to do anything for that," explains Frankenberger.

  • I hear you / I see you

Above all, it is about the child experiencing what is said. An example: The child is standing on top of the slide: "Look, Dad!" Many parents then give an answer à la: "Wow! It's great how high you climbed!"

Originally, the child wasn't even interested in getting an evaluation: "It just wanted to be seen," says Frankenberger, "when we say 'I see you' - we convey two things to the child: I see what you are doing : I'll take care of you. "

  • I had a lot of fun with you
  • Thanks for your help!

"After joint activities, recognition, feedback, is important. We shouldn't forget to say 'please' and 'thank you'", says Frankenberger

  • I think you can do it

If our children are wrestling with something, we shouldn't jump in right away. Frankenberger believes that "you can do that" is an important message: "We accompany our children without always taking something from them, as so-called lawnmower parents like to do." In the specific challenge that it is currently mastering, we convey: "You can do it - even on your own. I will accompany you."

Important experience for the child: my feelings are allowed to be

  • I understand that you are sad and angry
  • I understand that you are angry with me

Frankenberger: "Understanding does not mean agreeing!" With sentences like "Now don't exaggerate", "Calm down again, it was just a game!" do not help anyone. "All feelings are allowed," emphasizes Frankenberger. "If we try to comfort them away, the child does not feel that they have been taken. On the contrary, they will want to prove to me how bad the situation really is."

It is best to go along with: "Neither try to capitalize on the feelings. The children then know: the parents have received it, they are not afraid of what I feel. It is easier for the child to get out of his experience . "

  • I really enjoyed the way you helped your sister put on her shoes

If the child has succeeded in something, appropriate praise is of great importance. The key again: be specific. "It is important that the child learns: someone has seen their efforts."

Unconditional parental love

The child knows that we are happy when it helps us - many people think so. But why it is so important to also say it: "The child can reflect on his own behavior", explains Frankenberger. "We exist because others perceive us. If you can't see us, you're not there. That's why feedback on one's own actions is so important. "

As unconditionally as we love our children, it is important to be mindful of what we say. "All children want to be loved unconditionally, but not overly praised", specifies Frankenberger. "We convey unconditional love with our gestures and facial expressions, and by saying: I love you. But not by praising unconditionally: You are such a great child."

Astrid Lindgren would have done that brilliantly in "Karlsson vom Dach": He is not simply "The very best", but "the very best Karlsson in the world". Frankenberger: "This is how we can convey it to our children. You are the best Lea, the best Florian in the world. Exactly as you are, you are right, with all your feelings and thoughts and in all your uniqueness."

About the person: Anette Frankenberger has been working in Munich as a systemic couple and family therapist as well as a supervisor in her own practice since 1994. Since 1989 she has been working as a lecturer in adult education and educational counseling.