The Kids are Listening

For better and for worse

SG Buckley
2 min readFeb 11, 2022


Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash

Sometimes I replay in my mind the stupid things I say to my child.

We’ll be arguing about her unmade bed, or the jacket she lost, or the test she bombed because she didn’t study. Instead of saying she’s sorry, and will try harder next time, she makes excuses.

She didn’t have time to make the bed because I rushed her out the door. Someone stole her jacket. The teacher kept their notebooks. How could she possibly study?

Nothing is ever her fault.

I get there are psychological reasons kids do this. They don’t want to relive the past or have their parents see them in a negative light. But it makes me crazy. I feel my concerns aren’t sinking in.

I get so frustrated; I say things I don’t mean.

“You make every excuse not to study. I don’t get it. You’re so intellectually incurious!”

I really said that.

Of course, I apologize later. I explain I didn’t mean it. I lost my cool because she wasn’t listening.

But the reality is she was listening.

Worse, she’s taking to heart the stupid things I say and it’s affecting how she sees herself, as well as her capacity for self-compassion. These aren’t small things.

They are everything.

Self-compassion — the grace we show others extended to ourselves —makes for healthier and happier adults. A new study shows that people with low self-compassion tend to be more negative and are unhappier overall.

Go figure.

Self-compassion is also linked to healthier, more fulfilling relationships with others.

Some days I think how much better off my child would be if instead of venting about her shortcomings, I encouraged better behavior by focusing on things she does right.

You are so enthusiastic about art. Let’s see you apply that same spirit to your math homework!


You are exceptionally gifted at never losing your phone. I’m sure you can keep track of your jacket.

Both of those lines would make my daughter laugh — she sees right through me — but they would also be far more persuasive and she’d see herself in a more positive way.

Occasionally, I don’t regret the things I say.

Yesterday, we were returning home from school. She was talking about a geography test, which she had studied for, and felt she’d aced.

“I can do anything I set my mind to,” she said, parroting a line I’ve said many times.

I’m not a total monster.



SG Buckley

Writer, editor, parent. Former staffer at Quartz, WSJ and Inc. magazine.