Kids are like little sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear, which is why it’s so important to ensure that you expose to them only the best ideas about the world, the kindest expressions of your love, and the healthiest attitudes to life. So it goes without saying that how you talk to them shapes their ideas about everything, especially themselves.
While you might not intend to be hurtful, judgmental or critical, sometimes parents can say the worst things without even realizing the damage they are wreaking on their child’s emotional and mental health. Be careful not to say the following things to your child, under any circumstances:
- Telling Them To Try Harder: While encouragement is great, implying that your child isn’t giving something their best shot can be a defeating message to drill into them. Instead, be clear about your expectations and attach specific qualifiers to your statements. Don’t say, “I know you can do better than that,” when you can say something like, “The last time you did really well because you put in a lot of effort into your book report.”
- Pointing Out Their Food Choices: It’s great that you want your child to eat a healthy diet and avoid harmful junk food, but being too strict about their food and shaming them for wanting certain items is counterproductive. Instead, stock up on nutritious foods, set a good example yourself, and incorporate more exercise into family time. Praise them when they make good dietary choices, and encourage them to eat more of the good stuff, but let them indulge every now and then.
- Spouting Untrue Ultimates: You are labeling your child for life when you use the phrases “you always” and “you never”. It also creates a block, since your child will probably feel there’s no use changing if they’re always bad or never good enough. Avoid these, and address the issue if you feel there’s repetitive negative behavior.
- Comparing Siblings: A little rivalry is inevitable between your kids, but stoking that to get them to compete with each other for your approval is damaging in the long term. Not only will you affect their relationship with each other, but this will also damage their self-esteem.
- Pretending Everything Is Alright: Dismissing your child’s worries to soothe their fears is alright, but not constructive. Instead of telling them not to be afraid or not to cry, address their fears and ask them to express what is troubling them. Then figure out how to deal with it together.
- Using Your Parent/Adult Status As A Free Pass: There’s no line more famous for being spouted by parents than “because I said so.” Making this statement might give you the power and squash any arguments, but it also takes away your child’s sense of autonomy, the right to an opinion, and reminds them of how powerless they are. Instead of these defeating consequences, try and remind them gently that you are in charge for a reason, and that your decisions benefit the family as a whole. They will feel like they’ve been acknowledged even if you don’t agree with their opinions or demands.
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