Of all the words in the English language, one of my least favorite is “should.” I can think of no other word that carries with it as much judgment as ‘should’, and yet we use it all the time. We use it on ourselves, our loved ones and sometimes on complete strangers. I am here to tell you that we really shouldn’t.
As a parent (co-parent, really) I have heard it used on our children no less than 1,000 times. “You should call your grandparents.” “You should do your homework before dinner.” “You should be ashamed of yourself!” Have you said anything like this to your kids? The problem is that the statement suggests that there is something wrong with them if they don’t follow the suggested action.
I have found that as a parent, kids want definite instruction with no ambiguity. There is usually no argument if I say “Call your grandparents” or “Do your homework before dinner.” There might be discussion, but rarely an argument.
We all want our kids to grow up and be thoughtful and disciplined. But do we really want to shame them into it?
I know that for me as an adult, when someone starts to tell me what I ‘should’ be doing, I want to tell them where they should be going! When someone suggests what I could be doing, it is filled with possibility, choice and an absence of judgment. “Would” is almost as good, although less definite.
There are a lot of things that I should be doing. Truthfully, I prefer to think in terms of what I ‘could’ be doing. As an adult, I like being able to decide what they are. As a parent, I want my children to decide for themselves about what they could be doing. I want my instructions to them to be definite (DO IT) or filled with possibility and choice. To me, that is how they learn.
Should-ing all over yourself and others is a tough habit to break. But you should try it. You (and your kids) will be glad you did.