Editing Speech

31 Jul

Letterbalm Black Woman ShhhDear LetterBalm: I’m the mother of two who constantly battles the urge to control my kids too much and keep them from being independent. I also have to fight against criticizing them needlessly. (“You got second place in the spelling bee? That’s nice, but how come you didn’t come in first?”). I hate myself for these failings. I had a mother who rode me mercilessly, and a father who was only mildly helpful. So, yes, I have family history. How can I break this awful habit?

–Demeaning Mom

It’s good that you recognize your failings – a strong first step. Ms. L.B. says you have unfortunate patterns honed over a lifetime of being raised by a judgmental mother and a compliant dad. These are deeply ingrained and difficult to change. They make a child believe that love is contingent on being perfect. A child can also feel that love can be withdrawn. You might schedule private sessions with a cognitive behavior therapist to help you break those patterns. And, you might start a “stop-and-think” exercise in your mind every time you fear that you’re opening your mouth to become over-controlling or overly critical. Try some of these mental mantras:

  • Is this what I should be saying?
  • Is Amy/Todd making a reasonable request for her/his age?
  • Will this hurt my kid’s feelings unnecessarily?
  • Is this positive reinforcement?
  • How can I say this positively?
  • Is it really important that I say this right now?
  • Is it really necessary that I say this right now?
  • Stop! Think! [When things are on the verge of getting out of hand.]
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