What’s What Wednesday What Not to Say to Your Kids
This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is focusing on the communication used between parent and child. It is not uncommon for parents to get frustrated with their child, and therefore, can lead to words being spoken without thinking first. The following phrases or situations are some examples as to what we should avoid saying to children and why this can be significant to a child’s mental health.
“Hurry up, or I’ll leave you here”
Although this might be a common thought a parent has when trying to get well…anywhere with children, it is a phrase that can add to a child’s pre-existing fear of getting lost or feelings of abandonment. It is also important to remember that children do not have the same understanding and concept of time as adults do. Instead, focus on what it is that is causing them to lollygag around and help them get going without putting fear into words. Instead try: I know how badly you want to play longer at the park. But right now we have to go home to eat dinner.”
“You never do what I ask you to do”
This is a phrase that unfortunately seems to be used time and time again. However, this is one that can cause a child to feel that they cannot do anything right. If this is used consistently with a child, they may begin to wonder why they should listen at all. Instead, try being specific with them so they can better understand what, how, and why you need them to do something. Instead try: “The only thing left now is to drive the trucks up to their place on the shelf. Want to show me how you do that?”
“I wish you were more like your brother/sister”
No person, let alone a child, likes to be compared to someone else. This can potentially not only cause sibling rivalry, but can also lead to your child feeling inadequate or not worthy of accomplishment because they will never be as good as their sibling/s. It is important to love your child for who they are and embrace each child’s strengths and abilities rather than comparing them. Instead try: “I appreciate that you brushed your teeth with only one reminder.”
Avoid speaking about the other parent
A child should never be caught in the middle of parents’ arguments, disagreements, or witness hearing negative talk about the other parent. This can not only set a bad example for your child, but it can also cause your child to feel they have to choose sides or feel pressured to also speak negatively of the other parent. It is best to speak kindly about your partner in front of the child to avoid these feelings of pressure and differences.
No parent is perfect, and therefore, finding the right words in the moment can sometimes be a challenge. All parents get frustrated with their child from time to time and some of the above statements may be said. If that is the case, remember to apologize immediately and let your child know that you did not mean what you said and that you love them. Children need parents that encourage them rather than being spoken to with hurftful words that ultimately could affect their mental health and self-esteem.