Living"You're too old to...": why we should be careful...

"You're too old to…": why we should be careful when saying this phrase to children if we want to motivate them

When we communicate with children we do not always do it in a positive and respectful way, although sometimes we are not aware of it or even say something with the intention of helping or comforting.

A good example of this is when we try to encourage a child’s behavior by reminding him “how old he is” to do something that we adults think he should already be doing by age.

But although there may be children who feel motivated by this comment, on other occasions it could affect their self-esteem and confidence , especially when we are not respecting their maturational rhythms or taking into account their real needs.

“As old as you are, you should already…”, a phrase that is not always motivating

On too many occasions we make the mistake of considering children “older” too soon, making them grow at a forced pace without respecting their maturational rhythms, their emotional needs and the peculiarities that differentiate their brain from the adult brain.

In this sense, one of the things we most often do is pressure them with the concept of “older” , insisting on the idea that they have already passed a certain age to continue doing something concrete.

Here are some examples:

  • “You’re too old to continue wearing a diaper or to wet the bed”
  • “You’re too old to fight with your brother over that nonsense”
  • “as old as you are, you should already be sleeping in your bed”
  • “You’re too old to cry like that”
  • “You’re old now and you should behave yourself”

The truth is that on most occasions we say these phrases with the sole intention of motivating the child, so that he assumes a certain responsibility, changes an attitude, leaves a habit…

And we know that there is nothing that makes children more proud than growing up, overcoming stages and reaching milestones.

However, we must be careful with the way we use this phrase (its context, intonation, objective that we pursue…), as these subtle details can make the difference between encouraging and discouraging r.

Thus, if we are respectful and empathic with the needs and rhythms of the child , reminding him/her how “older he/she is” to assume responsibilities could be a motivational boost for him/her.

On the contrary, if we do not take these aspects into account and instead of encouraging we press with this idea (for example, “you are too old to continue using a diaper” ), the child will most likely feel hurt, ridiculed or failed when not comply with the expectations that the adult has set; which could end up affecting your confidence, security and self-esteem.

The same thing happens, for example, when we make our first child responsible for the fights or arguments with his younger siblings , completely ignoring his feelings and emotions because we consider that “he is the eldest and should behave as such.”

“Being older” is not a matter of age, but of maturity

On the other hand, it is convenient to reflect on what it means for the adult that a child is older and where we draw the line between “being older” and “being small”.

Is it a matter of age? In that case, from what moment does a child stop “being small” to pass ipso facto to “being older”?

Is becoming “grown up” dictated by a certain event? For example, having a brother, starting school, going from cradle to bed, stopping drinking from a bottle to drink from a glass…

Or does “being older” refer to a matter of milestones? That is, is the child who has left the diaper or the pacifier already considered “older”? And if he has given up the pacifier, but continues to use a diaper, is he still “older” or is he “half-older”?

But there is still more: what happens in the case of children who have passed a stage that gives them the title of “grown up”, but suddenly they go back? Do they lose their condition and become “little ones”?

In short, the concept “being older” is so ambiguous that on many occasions we adults use it as it suits us, without taking into account the real needs of the child, both physical and emotional.

And it is that to encourage a child to overcome and leave stages behind we must never pressure, ridicule or blackmail emotionally with our comments, but find a way to encourage him by offering him our support, trust, respect for his times and emotional support.

That is why we must be cautious with the label of “greater” that we hang on children , and always use it with the aim of encouraging in a respectful way, but never pressure.

Photos | Pexels, iStock

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