It would be nice if parents and children were perfect. There would never be an occasion for parents to get frustrated with their children because their children would never misbehave.
Unfortunately, parents and children are human and they aren’t perfect. When you’re a parent and you get frustrated, you may say something to your child without thinking. The following are some things to avoid saying to your kids.
I wish you’d never been born.” No child should ever have to hear their parent make this comment. Even if you’re so frustrated with your child you could spit sixteen penny nails, bite your tongue if you think you’re about to say this. Not only does this phrase hurt a child’s feelings at the time it’s said, it damages their self-esteem and makes them feel they aren’t wanted.
Hurry up or I’ll leave you here.” Children don’t understand about time like adults do. If your child already has a fear of being abandoned or getting lost, when you make this statement you will add to their fear. Try to find out why they’re lollygagging and do what you can to get them moving without causing them any fear.
“You never do what I ask you to do.” When you make this statement time and time again, your child will soon begin to feel like they can’t do anything right. They’ll begin wonder why they should bother trying at all. Try using the phrase, “I would like you to do this in this way.” Be specific in what you want so they’ll understand and be able to accomplish what you asked.
I wish you were more like your brother/sister.” No one likes to be compared with someone else. They want to be appreciated for who they are. Making statements like this only leads to your child feeling inadequate and encourages sibling rivalry. A child who hears this often may feel they can’t accomplish anything of worth because they’ll never be as good as their sibling. Rather than comparing your children, recognize that each child is different with their own strengths and abilities. Celebrate their differences and love them for who they are.
Disparaging comments about your child’s other parent. Children don’t need to be put in the middle of their parents’ disagreements or hear you speak ill of the other parent. This may cause the child think they have to choose sides or they may say bad things about them, too. Even if you are separated from your child’s other parent, it is important only to say kind things about them in front of your children.
We can’t afford that.” If you tell your children you can’t afford something often enough, they may begin to think that money can buy happiness. They may also come to the conclusion that your family is in financial difficulties, whether it is true or not. Rather than saying you can’t afford something, you don’t have to give them a reason why your answer is no to a request.
All parents get frustrated with their children from time to time. If you do make one of these statements, apologize to your child immediately. Explain that you were wrong, you didn’t mean what you said, you love them and you’ll try not to say it again. Children need to have parents who encourage and build them up, not tear down their self-esteem with careless words they don’t mean.
CDI Articles on Family Communication
Book: How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk