The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Beware of What You Say

Parents  sometimes need to be reminded that little  pitchers

have  big  ears.   Everything  we say  is  heard  and  stored  in

children’s  memory.   There are many things we  want  stored  and

eventually  acted  on.   There  are  many  other  things  we  are

surprised  that children heard us say that we wish they  did  not

hear.   I want to discuss two of these: attitude toward work  and


Parents  who  take  pride in their work and  enjoy  it  talk

positively  about the experience.  These are usually the  parents

who have jobs where they are recognized and encouraged for  their

contributions.   There  are other parents who do  not  have  this

experience and need to exercise caution when talking about  their

jobs around their children.

As  one mother put it she used to enjoy her job because  her

expertise  was recognized and acknowledged.  Then the  impersonal

computers  came  along and she was assigned tasks on  a  rotating

basis according to what the computer indicated needed to be  done

next.  She no longer felt recognized for her unique  contribution

and began to slack off.  This mother needs to be careful.

If  she begins to complain in front of the children and  say

sentences  like:   “Why  should I work hard if  nobody  cares  or

notices  but  me? ”  Or, “They don’t pay me enough to do  a  good

job.”  “Nobody else works.”  “All the bosses do all day is  drink

coffee.”   “Why  should  I bother if they  don’t  notice.”   then                         

children  get  the message that work is something to  avoid,  not

something to enjoy.  This attitude can have a devastating  effect

on their future happiness.  Everybody eventually needs to work at

something.   The  greatest gift a parent can give a child  is  to

help  him  to find the kind of work he enjoys.  He may  have  bad

bosses, maybe not enough recognition, but he will be able to  put

these things in perspective and deal with them if he truly  loves

what he is doing.

This  is not an easy task for parents to accomplish  because

children  not only have big ears, they are observant.  They  come

in  contact with many adults who are minimalists as far as  their

jobs  are concerned.  Minimalists do not like their  jobs.   They

refuse  to give of their talents.  They arrive with the bell  and

leave with the bell.  They take the full quota of sick days.   As

one  minimalist stated it, “I put in my seven hours,  collect  my

pay check, and do as little as possible.”  Minimalists are  found

in all fields of work.  They are unhappy, unfulfilled people.

Parents  need to help their children so that they will  find

satisfaction  in  their  future work.   The  first  step  is  for

parents not to talk like minimalists.

The second step is for parents not to use poor grammar  when

speaking.  In these times, being able to communicate and to speak

effectively  is as important a skill as being able to  read  with

comprehension.  Many children use poor grammar because they never

hear correct speech.  As a result, they may fail to get a coveted

job,  not  because  they  lack the  skills,  but   because  their           

grammar is so poor that they give  an impression of ignorance 
This is a hard one to counteract because poor grammar is  so

prevalent  in  today’s world and on television sitcoms.   Do  not

correct  your child while he is speaking.  Rather, say  the  same

sentences  correctly later so his ear becomes attuned to how  the

sentences  should  sound.  Since correct grammar is  an  auditory

skill, the more the child hears it correctly the more he will  be

able to self-correct.

Many of the things children learn are caught and not taught.

Parents  need  to exercise caution when they speak  in  front  of

children.   Children  need to hear messages  which  will  improve

their lives, not the other way around.

Posted in Behavior, From Experience, Getting the Most For Your Child, Labeling, Parenting | Leave a comment

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