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worst things to say to kids

The Worst Things to Say to Your Kids

The worst things to say to your kids are those that make them feel rejected and unloved. They usually come out of a parent’s mouth when they are losing control for a second. Their effects can be truly devastating for children, and that’s why all parents should know what those hurtful words tell a therapist about themselves and their relationship with the kids.

Most parents we have talked to admit that sometimes they say things to theіr child/children that they do not mean or later regret saying. Accordіng to Psychotherapist Antonia Van Der Meer, a parent’s temporary loss of control may, unfortunately, mean permanent heartache for the child.

Van Der Meer states that sometimes when parents come home tired and irritable and discover that theіr daughter or son has again left their homework books at school, even the most understanding parent may find themselves blurting, “How can you be so stupid?” “When are you going to learn to think?”
Van Der Meer suggests that 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, cynical or hostile statements are said intentionally or just slip out. The result is always the same: the parent feels temporarily relieved perhaps, but that damages their little one’s self-esteem and the bond of trust between them might get broken.

It is important to recognise the worst things to say to your kids and resist saying them. Parents must learn to handle their anger and frustration to teach a child how to behave.

These are some of the statements experts agree are among the worst things to say to your kids:

  • “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!
  • “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, confirming and, when negative, are also demeaning. A negative label 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. That is why this is one of the worst things to say to your kids.
  • “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”. This is one terrible, hurtful message for a child to carry around, often 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.
  • “Do it – or else!” – A child is unlikely to be motivated by vague and unspecific threats.
  • “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. It is truly scary for a child. It reinforces a fear that young children already have – that a parent might disappear and never come back.


An alternative approach to family communication

  • Encouragement vs praise: Encourage consistent progressive effort to achieve their best.
  • Choices and Consequences: Indicates personal responsibility and consequences of the decision made.
  • Rejecting child’s behaviour rather than the child: Befоre the child goes to sleep at night, correct any negative comments, so they feel appreciated and worthy rather than resented.

As parents, we have all made mistakes when communicating with our children. We need to learn from those mistakes, forgive ourselves, learn the lesson, leave the negative memory behind, and move on. It’s never too late to learn.

Further info: If you’d like to learn how to improve your child’s confidence, take a look at our page on The SleepTalk® Process. It gives parents a second chance to redefine the basic self-image of their child and create a positive belief in place of previously accepted negative ones.