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10 Verbal Villains: What parents should never say


Have you ever attempted to open up to someone only to feel jumped on because rather than they listen to you, they jumped to try to fix the situation rather than simply listen to you?

We have all done this at some point. When someone comes to us with a problem, many times we try to fix it as quickly as possible, by sharing our thoughts or opinions.

The problem is that many times the wrong problem is getting solved.

There is a great illustration of the types of things people do when trying to solve problems in the book, Amity: Friendship in action.

Let’s pretend your child is a junior in high school and says, “School is really a drag. Just a waste of time! I’d be a lot better off working. I know where I can get a job. I think I’ll take it and forget about that stupid school!” (Walters, R.P. 1980. Amity: Friendship in action.)

  1. Spock: logic and facts only. “You know you will not get a job that will pay as well if you graduate from high school.”
  1. Detective: asks question after question to eventually solve the problem or prove your point. “Where can you get a job? How do you know you really can get it? What will it pay? What makes you so sure you will like it?”
  1. Florist: focusing only on the positive. “Oh, things can’t be as bad as all that, especially for you! Probably the reason school seems to be dull for you is because you have so much ability! It’s still early in the year; things will pick up, and I’ll bet it turns out to be a wonderful year for you!”
  1. Nostalgia: let me tell you how bad I have had it. “When I was your age I went through the same thing. I remember when I even went out looking for a job I was so tired of school. But I stuck in there. I realized I was just frustrated.”
  2. Drill Sergeant: Tells you what to do. “If you want to make the right decision, here’s how to go about it. First, write down all the advantages and disadvantages. Then, talk to people who have tried it both ways. Next, tabulate their opinions and compare them with our own. After you have done that, the next step is to . . .”
  1. Swami: predict what is going to happen if you do what say you are doing. “You do that and before a week is up you’ll wish you were back in school. Believe me, it will never work out for you!”
  1. Hangman: criticism, you did not do enough. “If you don’t like school, it’s your own fault. If you’re not getting anything out of it, probably you aren’t putting anything into it. If you don’t take advantage of your opportunities, you have nobody but yourself to blame.”
  1. Foreman: get busy with something else. “I know that what will get your mind off that. I’ve got to take my car in for some new tires. Ride down to the shop with me and we’ll see what’ going on down there.”
  1. Guru: Cliché, cheap advice. Win some you lose some, God will work it out.” “The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. Don’t burn your bridges behind you. Hang in there. Remember when the going gets tough, the tough get going!”
  1. Magician: it will go away, not really a problem anyway. “Oh, school is really O.K. You’re probably just down on it because today is Friday. You will like it better again next week. Just wait and see – next week things will be just fine!”

Remember, the issue is not the issue. The issue is the fruit of the issue.

Before trying to solve the problem, or address the first thing that is said. We must first make sure we are helping to solve the right problem.

We can do this by listening for how they feel, not what they are saying. Then we can explore their feelings, and why they feel that way.

This allows you to connect with them on a deeper level, and for them to know that you are listening to them, and willing to walk with them through the process, rather than telling them what to do.

A Better Response: “So you feel the it is so frustrating for you at school you are just thinking of anything to get out of there?” “What makes it so frustrating?”

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