The 10 Worst Things to Say to Your Children

The Goulding SleepTalk® process is every parent’s second chance to give their children positive messages – and to put right those hurtful things just about all of us occasionally say to our children when we’re cross.

Let’s face it, when you come home tired and irritable and discover your daughter or son has again left their homework books at school, even the most understanding parent may find themselves saying “How can you be so stupid?”, or “When are you going to learn to think?”.

What about when you take your children on holidays and all they do is fight with each other. Even the most patient parent might ask aloud “Why did I ever have children?”

All parents are bound to lose control occasionally, and lose sight of the fact that their words can make a child feel wounded, rejected or unloved. Whether menacing, negative or hostile statements are said intentionally or just slip out, the result is far too likely to be the same: you feel temporarily relieved perhaps, but real damage may be done to your child’s self-esteem and the bond of trust between you is damaged.

We all know that it’s important to recognize – and resist – saying hurtful things. We know that as parents, we must do our utmost to learn to handle our own anger and frustration in order to teach our children how to behave.

Here are 10 statements from Antonia Van Der Meer, that most of us are familiar with, and that experts agree are most harmful to our children:

  • Why can’t you be more like…? – Every child is unique and an individual.
  • Why don’t you act your age? – Many times when we insist a child act their age, they are acting their age.
  • Must you always be such a slob? – Criticism only lays the groundwork for an unproductive power struggle. The key is to strike a balance.
  • You’re the funny one /athletic one /pretty one… – Labels we give children can be problematic. And if you use a negative label, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • How could you be so stupid? – ‘Stupid’ is a loaded word that can be especially damaging to a child’s self-esteem and confidence, compounding a belief they are not unconditionally loved.
  • Sometimes I wish I’d never had kids. – A child hears “You’re worthless; I wish you weren’t my kid. I don’t want you”. A child can carry such hurtful messages around, even unconsciously into adulthood.
  • Leave me alone! – An angry dismissal of a child can make them feel unloved and unwanted.
  • Shut up! – Apart from being impolite, degrading, controlling and demeaning, children learn by example.
  • Just do it – or else! – A child may not be motivated by something so unspecific.
  • If you don’t come with me now, I’ll leave without you. – The threat of abandonment as a discipline tool is a destructive approach to take, and pretty scary for a child. It reinforces a fear that young children already have – that a parent might disappear and never come back.

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