Google+ Authentic Parenting: No Room For "I Told You So"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No Room For "I Told You So"

A while back, my daughter sprayed perfume in her eyes. Of course, this happened after I told her to put the perfume bottle back because she could get urt.
As I rinsed her eyes with physiological serum, I felt an urge to say: "I told you so." (Don't worry, I didn't), because that's what we do.
When our child gets hurt for something we have warned them against, how often do we as parents rub it in? How often do we gloat in the opportunity to show off our parental superiority, and rejoyce in our 'know it all'-ism. Of course, this isn't something we deliberately do.
I think few parents actually want to gloat their children's misery. It is just another imprited thing we have to unlearn.

D Sharon Pruitt on Flickr

Indeed, there is little room for "I told you so" or "you see what happens when...". They are all statements that
  • do not help the situation 
  • shame the child and 
  • show little empathy
thus, the child learns that his parent cares more about being right than about his momentary pain or grief.

Next time your child does something that goes against your every warning, with bad results, notice how you feel. If you are feeling frustrated, replace that emotion with empathy. It doesn't matter that you had told them not to, they have gained an experience, and that's what life is about.



  1. Good post, thanks for making me consciously think about this, because I had a similar incident this morning.
    I don't like to restrict my son (29 months) too much, as don't like the idea of a completely child-proofed home - it's important he lives in the real world, so can handle himself in various situations.
    This morning I warned him against closing a cupboard as I could see he was about to jam his fingers. He's an independent wee boy (which I love), and responded defiantly with "I CAN DO IT MYSELF!", and promptly jammed his fingers.
    I responded with an immediate hug and soothing words. As he calmed down, we talked about what happened. (He likes to explain and discuss his 'hurts'). I gently reminded him that Mummy had said it was dangerous and he nodded in agreement. I obviously didn't state this to shame him, and the whole conversation was in empathy. My point of it was that when I tell him that something is dangerous, I really need him to listen to me. (I don't say it that often).
    So I guess in a way I was telling him "I told you so" - but I feel that the way I did it was in a nuturing way. I guess the context of the telling is very important.

  2. As you describe it, it seems to me that indeed, you didn't say "I told you so" as a personal confirmation or as a way to shame your child, but you turned it around to show your genuine interest and concern... which is of course a very good thing.
    Good parenting Rachel! ANd great that you show there are I told you so's that aren't hurtful

  3. Excellent points in your post. When we bring in the, "I told you so", to the situation it tends to block the child's ability to learn from the situation.

    They are smart, they have some basic idea of cause and effect.

    Rachel, while I would rather not say anything about it and just comfort them, I like your way of doing it, if something is to be said. The way you did it was still in an empathizing way.

    Thanks for the ideas and reminders.

  4. Well-written, brief, awesome.

    I think some parents say, "I told you so" (or the equivalent in words and actions) because they hate to see their kids hurt, and they want to believe in some kind of shortcut so their kid doesn't have a repeat AND so they can have the simple (so they believe) solution: that they can be their kids' Protector and nothing will go wrong and kid will check in with them first.

    It's our job to keep our kids safe but becoming overbearing, lecturing too much, or belittling our children's autonomy and curiosity have huge costs.

    Thanks for a great post!

  5. Thanks for this post, I really like it, I've been enjoying reading through your posts and enjoying your fb page, thanks for sharing all this great information. For me I find parenting so much easier when I'm in dialogue with other parents who share similar values. It soothes the frustration I can feel at not being surrounded by more families who parent in a similar way, although I am surrounded by a really great community of families who are really dedicated to their kids, but this isn't the kind of language I can share with many of them.
    Thanks to everyone who has shared in this thread, it's great to connect with other parents working with a similar model. Genevieve (not Dan that's my husband)


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