injury

Why Do We Keep Telling Our Kids “You’re OK”?

This thought first occurred to me when my son was maybe 4 or 5 months old. He bumped his head during some tummy time and began to cry. I immediately picked him up and repeated the phrase, “You’re OK,” over and over again.

Was he OK? Of course. Perhaps he was scared. Either way, what I was really doing was ignoring his emotions. And trying to make them go away. Think about it: When an adult hurts herself, do you immediately respond with, “You’re OK”? No, you ask her what’s wrong and if there’s anything you can do to help.

So why don’t we show that same care and respect for our children?

Maybe you think I’m being too dramatic or picky. Alright. Let’s imagine you are upset about something and you are crying. You go to your partner or friend and start crying to them. They have no idea what you are upset about and all they do is pat you on the back and repeat, “You’re OK,” incessantly. I don’t know about you but I would be pissed! Over time I would learn that this person was not the type of person I can go to when I am upset. Something to think about for your child’s teenage years. Have you shown your child through the years that they can come to you for anything and you will listen to them?

Perhaps we could try listening to our children and talking with them about their feelings before we quickly rush to tell them they are “OK.” Let’s sit with them as they learn to handle uncomfortable feelings of being hurt, scared, frustrated, or angry. Maybe even (gasp!) we can explore these feelings.

For my part, I have started replacing the phrase, “You’re OK,” with, “Mama’s here.” While my son is now 13 months old and cannot use many words yet, I am trying to set the stage for listening, rather than talking. Understanding rather than dismissing. Guidance rather than dictating.

Rachel SteinRachel Stein is pursuing her license to practice Marriage and Family Therapy and is also a published children's book illustrator (under her maiden name, Rachel Mammina). She holds the golden glove award in catching flying food, a record breaking time in diaper changing as well as completing nursing marathons. She lives in Long Island, NY with her husband and 11 month old son.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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