What would you never say to your five-year-old? It’s hard to say exactly what goes on your list but I suspect that things on your never say list all have a negative or critical tone or message tucked in there. I doubt that any of us would tell our five-year-old that he or she is stupid, ugly, lazy, in the way, too much bother, or anything else implying that the child is not valued or not okay. At least I hope none of us would relate to or respond to a child in ways like that.
Even so, there is definitely another side to that coin. Our five-year-old certainly needs feedback, and sometimes, that feed back needs to be negative or critical. Children need to learn how to do things and how to behave. They also need to learn how not to do things and how not to behave. They require guidance, coaching and the opportunity to take advantage of our experience, awareness and judgment. They also have to occasionally deal with a firm and unequivocal “No!” The issue isn’t whether they should receive our guidance and feedback – they should. Rather the issue is how and when that guidance and feedback should be forthcoming.
You may be thinking that I’m about to offer some advice about how you should or should not go about providing guidance and feedback to children. Not this time. Instead, I want to share with you my father’s first principle for offering guidance and feedback to me growing up. As much as I have read about and studied child development and parenting over the years, I have never come across any childhood scholar or parenting expert who even mentioned Dad’s first principle, little lone recommending it. Nonetheless, I think you may find it worth your consideration.