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Getting rid of "should" and "must"

How many times have you told your child they "should be able" to do this or that? What are you really communicating to them when using the words "should" and "must"?

The words "should" and "must" communicate a certain expectation: "You should be able to tidy your own room by now" or "You must not get angry when this happens". You have the expectation that they need to be able to do something or be a certain way and they are not meeting these expectations. When you use these kinds of phrases when communicating to your child, it could make them feel guilty, insufficient and resentful towards you or themselves. They might fee like they are seldomly able to meet your expectations and this could impact their self-esteem in return.

How could you rephrase phrases like the ones mentioned above in a more accepting, encouraging manner? Consider these examples: "I would like you to clean your room and show me that you can do it to the best of your abilities." "I can see that you are feeling angry because this happened. Can you tell me more about why you are feeling angry right now?" Neither of these two phrases communicate expectations, but rather communicate encouragement and empathy.

Getting rid of these two words could make space for more acceptance, encouragement and empathy in your relationship with your child. Give it a go and see how it impacts your child and your relationship with them!

PS. Do you feel you need more support with this or something else related to parenthood? Join my monthly South African Expat Parents/Guardians in the Netherlands support group. The next one will take place on 17 November!

Yours in love and encouragement,


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