Words have power, whether we want to admit that or not. And while we all say things we don’t mean sometimes, we should be careful with the words we chose to use with children, because they can shape them for better or worse.
We’ve all been there- we are completely frazzled, overloaded with tasks, and our child keeps pressing all the wrong buttons. Before we even realize it- we have yelled and said the wrong thing in response. This is going to happen. But- there are certain phrases we use regularly with the little ones that may seem well-intentioned to us. We may believe the phrase is even to their benefit.
But, despite our best intentions, sometimes we say the wrong thing that can do way more harm than good. Here are 10 hurtful phrases parents use with their children that are best avoided.
1. You’re so dramatic.
While kids can most definitely be intense, calling them dramatic can follow them for a long time. It’s best to teach them how to handle difficult and overwhelming emotions, rather than labeling your kids as their emotions.
2. It’s not a big deal.
When kids are reacting to something in an intense way, and we don’t understand why, we may feel the need to tell them that it isn’t a big deal. However, by doing so, you are invalidating their emotions and teaching them that it isn’t okay to feel the way they feel, which is harmful.
3. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Shame is an intense and powerful emotion that should never be used to discipline a child or manipulate their behavior. After hearing this phrase multiple times throughout their life, your child may very well come to believe they are inherently flawed.
4. You never_______, or You always ______.
Never and always phrases are not only untrue but are also unhelpful. Rather than teaching your child what you need from them, this phrase makes them feel helpless.
5. Anything about their weight.
Saying phrases about your child’s weight will not only destroy their self-esteem, but will also give them an unhealthy body image. In turn, they may end up having eating problems or spend their life struggling with their confidence.
6. You don’t feel that way.
Saying this to your child is a form of gaslighting. While your intention may be to help them or to teach them – when your child expresses their emotion, and you shut them down, you are destroying their sense of reality. The message is: I know how you feel, better than you do. And that can mess with their mind.
7. I wish you had never been born.
No matter how frustrated you get- do not ever say this. This phrase will stick with your child for the rest of their life and will destroy their sense of self and self-worth.
8. Why can’t you be more like ________?
When you compare your child to someone else, you are sending the message that they aren’t good enough. In turn, their self-esteem will become destroyed, and they may always compare themselves to others.
9. You should know better.
This phrase is a form of guilt or shaming. While you may want them to do better- it puts your child on the defensive, which in turn, will make them less likely to listen. It also doesn’t teach them anything.
10. Here, just let me do it.
When your child is trying to do something, you may feel tempted to take over and do it yourself. But, when you do this, you are telling them they are incompetent and robbing them of a valuable lesson on how to do things the right way.