Being a parent is, without a doubt, quite challenging and frustrating. Taking care of your kids at home, taking them to school, going to work and coming back home to do some more household chores, can really take a toll on your mental and physical state and make you say things you don’t really mean.
But words can hurt and once you say something, you can’t take it back. If you want to maintain a healthy and happy relationship with your children, here are ten things you should never say to them, no matter how angry or frustrated they might make you feel.
“You’re so dramatic.”
We all know how children can overreact sometimes in a feeble attempt to get our attention. But even when you are sure your kid is trying to stir up some drama, don’t call them dramatic. It will only make them feel ashamed of their feelings and think that their feelings don’t matter, warns Kate Loewenstein, LCSW.
Selfish is a strong word and calling someone by that name, especially a child, can afflict serious long-term consequences. If you want to reprimand your child for doing/not doing something, use a language that shows you are disappointed by your child’s action not character. “This type of clarifying language is very important,” says Lowenstein.
“I wish you’d never been born.”
It might sound cruel, in fact, it is cruel, but some parents still say it to their children when they are frustrated or angry. No matter what your feelings are, as an adult, you can control your language and behavior towards your child. Telling something like this to your child can cause lifelong trauma. “I’ve known clients who’ve been told this and were scarred for life by the remark,” says Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW. How would this remark make you feel?
“Why can’t you be more like your sibling?”
If you’ve grown up in a family with siblings, you know there are always all sorts of rivalries, animosities and fightings. It’s common for brothers and sisters to fight and still be best friends at the end of the day. But when the parent encourages such rivalry and jealousy, it can damage the siblings’ relationship for good.
According to psychotherapist Shirley Porter, RSW, writer for Choosing Therapy, children will start doubting their capabilities and believe they will never be good enough to be loved by their parents, thinking they are “defective in some way”. It will also strain their relationship with their siblings.
If you want to teach your children to think for themselves and express their ideas freely, don’t ever say things like “you’re stupid” to them. It might not mean much to you in a moment of anger or frustration, but to them, it’s hurtful and detrimental to their core beliefs about themselves, according to Porter.
“You’re the man of the house.”
Boys are often told they are the man of the house, especially after their parents get a divorce and they are left with their mothers. But putting such a burden on them can turn them into a negative person in the long run. “This puts too much pressure on the child to fulfill a role he cannot and should not yet [have],” says Kasi Howard, PsyD.
“No dessert until you’ve finished dinner.”
Children are fussy when it comes to food and, whether we like it or not, not all of them can be members of the “clean plate club”. But this doesn’t mean you should make things even more difficult for your child by turning the dinner table into a hostile environment.
“You’re already having difficulty getting your child to eat their food, and this actually increases your child’s perceived threat and creates an increased power differential,” says registered play therapist Sarah Rees.
Mornings can be quite hectic when you are trying to get the kids ready for school while you’re preparing for work yourself. The stress of being on time can make you a bit more agitated but screaming at your children to get a move on will not motivate them to speed things up. It will only cause more stress and anxiety in your children and make them feel ashamed for not being able to do what you ask of them.
If you want to push your kids to get a move on, try transforming everything into a game of who is the quickest in getting ready. “By making it into a ‘we event,’ you’ll teach your child the importance of collaboration,” suggests Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, a clinical and consulting psychotherapist and author of Fragile Power: Why Having Everything is Never Enough.
Have you ever stopped doing something just because someone told you to? If the answer is no, then why are you doing it to your children? When you tell a child to stop crying, you are actually invalidating their feelings and making them feel even more confused about how they should react when something happens. Not only will it pave the way for future outbursts, but it will also make your children less likely to come to you to tell you about their feelings.
“Because I said so.“
“Because I said so” should never be used as an argument to make someone do something, especially not children. Just because you are the adult in this equation does not mean you hold the absolute truth, and everyone should just listen to you no matter what. I know it might be hard to convince children to do something they don’t want to but using this cliché parenting phrase will not make it any easier, says Janie Feldman, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in New Jersey.
If you want to succeed in convincing your children to perform certain tasks, try offering some incentive. It’s kind of like the same thing with work and salaries for adults, right? If it works for us, it will also work for children. Also, find out more about The WORST Mistakes You Need to Stop Making By Age 40.
Everyone acts lazy every once in a while, and children make no exception. But calling them out for being lazybones is not the way to motivate them. You will only make them feel like this is the way they are and they can’t do anything to change that. According to national certified counselor Katheryn Ely, JD, host of the “Imperfect Thriving” podcast, parents should not label children in any way because it can alter the way they see themselves and “form a picture or identity of herself that leaves out so many other pieces of who the child is”.