As parents, we play a crucial role in shaping our children's lives, and the words we choose can have a lasting impact. It's important to communicate effectively without hurting our children's self-esteem. Here are eight things not to say to your child and alternative approaches that foster a healthy parent-child relationship.
"This is a small thing, don't need to be..."Minimizing your child's difficulties can make them feel invalidated and reluctant to share in the future. Instead, acknowledge their challenges and offer support by saying, "Oh, that sounds really difficult. Is there anything I can do to help?"
"I am so disappointed in you."Expressing disappointment in a generalized manner can make your child feel like a disappointment. Instead, address the specific behavior and your concerns by saying, "Doing (behavior) is not okay. I am concerned..." This approach separates the behavior from their inherent worth.
"Stop crying!"Allowing your child to express their emotions is essential for their emotional development. Instead of dismissing their tears, offer comfort and understanding by saying, "Do you need a hug? Let it all out. I'm here when you want to talk about it."
"Later your mother/father will come home, then you'll see."Using a good cop bad cop parenting style can create a sense of disconnect between the child and the parent assuming the negative role. Instead, address the issue promptly and help your child understand what went wrong.
"You should do it because I said so."Imposing authority without explanation can lead to resentment and rebellion. Instead, help your child understand the reasoning behind your request, saying, "Let me explain why it's important. Understanding the purpose will help you see why it matters."
"Why can't you be more like..."Comparing your child to others can damage their self-esteem and create feelings of inadequacy. Instead, focus on their individual strengths and encourage them without comparisons. Explain what needs to be done without referencing others.
"You are too young to understand."Dismissing your child's curiosity can discourage them from seeking your guidance in the future. Instead, be honest when you don't have an answer, saying, "I don't have an answer for you right now, but we will definitely discuss this again."
"This is my house, so you follow my rules."Asserting authority without considering your child's feelings can create an unwelcoming and unsafe environment. Instead, remind them of the house rules respectfully, saying, "You know the house rules. Let's try to stick to them, please."
By choosing our words carefully and fostering open communication, we can build a strong and trusting relationship with our children. Let's strive to create an environment where they feel valued, heard, and understood.
Dr Shawn Ee.
BSc. BPsych. DPsych.(Clinical), Clinical Psychologist & Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, Registered Psychologist (AHPRA; Australia)