Don’t send mixed messages. We are all guilty of using the word “but” when talking with our children. I even wrote a blog entry dedicated to the effective use of the word “but” (Become a But expert). However, “but” is a conjunction used to add something to a previous statement and usually contrasts in some way. The devil is in the details and the details always follow the word “but.” Your children learn to wait for the “real” message. As a School Principal, we were trained to deliver bad news with “3 Wows and a Now.” Trust me, the teachers never heard the “Wows” because they were waiting for the “Now.”
When talking with your preteens, be mindful that they think everything you say after the word “but” is the truth. So, it stands to reason that everything before the word “But” must be a lie and that’s why you get a response that makes you say “Where did that come from?” For Example:
Mother: Honey, you look really nice today, but you need a haircut.
Pre-teen: Why are you always criticizing me? Nothing I do is good enough for you.
Mother: I’m not being critical.
Pre-teen: I’m fine just the way I am. I hate you!
Mother: Where did that come from?
All he/she heard was “You need a haircut blah blah blah blah” Try substituting the word “but” with the word “and.” In this way your children will recognize and accept the compliment and appreciate your desire to “enhance” rather than “improve.” Enhance implies that you want to “make better” while improve implies that you want to “make over.”
Also, take specific steps to ensure that your “words” match your “actions.” I went back to school to get my doctorate degree because my youngest daughter said “Mommie you said reading was important, but we never see you reading.” Book please!!!!!!!