Here’s 5 phrases that we should avoid using with our children.
Although these phrases may be well-intentioned, they can send unintended messages that may be harmful to our child’s self-esteem. Awareness of the language we use with our child is the first step to change.
I’ll also suggest alternative phrases and communication strategies that can promote the behaviour we want and build our child’s self-esteem. By learning and implementing these techniques, we can improve our parent-child relationships and create a nurturing environment for our children to thrive in.
1.” I wish you were more like (someone else)“
We may have a certain expectation or ideals we have for our child’s behaviour, personality, or accomplishments and believe that by comparing our child to others, whether it be siblings, cousins, or classmates, it will motivate them to improve and change their behaviour.
Comparing your child to others can be harmful for several reasons:
When we compare a child to others, we are essentially telling them that they are not good enough as they are. This can be damaging to their self-esteem and make them feel like they are not valued or loved for who they are.
When a child feels like they are being compared unfavourably to others, they may start to feel resentful towards those people. These negative emotions can impact their relationships with friends, family members, and others and even fuel sibling rivalry and conflicts.
When a child feels like they are being compared to others, they may start to feel like they need to compete with them. This can lead to an unhealthy focus on winning and being the best, rather than on personal growth and development.
When we compare a child to others, we may be overlooking their unique qualities and strengths. This can prevent them from developing a strong sense of self and feeling confident in who they are.
Instead of comparing your child to others, it’s important to focus on their individual strengths and encourage them to develop their own unique talents and abilities. You can offer guidance and support in helping them achieve their goals, rather than comparing them to others.
2. “Stop crying, there’s nothing to be upset about”
We may say this to our child because we’re concerned about our child’s well-being and want to make sure that they are not hurt or in danger.
Another reason is that we may find the sound of crying stressful or overwhelming, particularly if we ourselves we’re not allowed to show big emotions growing up. In these cases, we may feel a strong urge to stop the crying in order to reduce our own discomfort and stress levels.
And, some of us may believe that crying is a sign of weakness or that it is important for our child to learn to control their emotions.
Telling our child to stop crying can be harmful for several reasons:
Firstly, When we dismisses a child’s feelings or emotions, it can have a negative impact on their self-esteem and their ability to trust themselves. Children learn how to regulate their emotions and understand their own feelings through their interactions with their parents and caregivers. If we consistently dismisses or invalidate a child’s emotions, it can make a child feel unsupported and ashamed of their emotions. This can erode their self-esteem and make it difficult for them to trust their own feelings and perceptions in the future.
Secondly, telling a child to stop crying and that there’s nothing to be upset about can reinforce the idea that expressing emotions, particularly negative ones, is unacceptable. This can make a child more likely to suppress their emotions, which can have negative consequences for their mental health and well-being in the long run.
Instead of telling your child to stop crying, it’s important to acknowledge and validate their feelings. You can say something like: ” You’re upset, and that’s okay. It’s okay to feel sad or frustrated sometimes.” This help your child feel heard and understood, which can help them regulate their emotions and feel more secure in their relationship with you.
3. “I’m disappointed in you”
We may use this phrase in situations where we feel our child has made a poor choice, acted in a way that we think is inappropriate or disrespectful, or failed to meet our expectation or goal that we’ve have set for them. The intention behind saying “I’m disappointed in you” is often to convey a sense of disappointment or frustration in our child’s behaviour, rather than to shame or belittle our child.
But it can be harmful for several reasons:
Hearing that they have disappointed someone they love and respect can be crushing to a child’s self-esteem. They may begin to believe that they are not good enough or worthy of love and approval.
When a child feels like they have disappointed someone, they may become afraid of making mistakes or taking risks in the future. This can lead to a lack of confidence and an unwillingness to try new things.
Simply telling a child that you are disappointed in them doesn’t offer any guidance on how to improve or what they could do differently. This can leave them feeling helpless and unsure of how to move forward.
Instead of saying “I’m so disappointed in you,” it’s important to focus on understanding your child’s behaviour and guide them to better behaviour. For example, you could say “Let’s talk about what you can do differently next time.” This approach helps your child understand the problem, gain confidence in their abilities and know how to work towards a solution, rather than just feeling like they have let someone down.
4. “I don’t trust you“
We may say this to our child because our child has engaged in behaviour that has broken our trust, such as lying or breaking rules repeatedly, we may feel the need to communicate our distrust to the child in the hope that it will motivate them to change their behaviour.
Or in some cases, we may struggle with letting go of control and may use expressions like “I don’t trust you” as a way of exerting control over our child’s behaviour. Or we may have unresolved trust issues from our past experiences that make it challenging for us to trust others, including our children. These issues may be related to our own childhood experiences or past relationships, and we may project our mistrust onto our child. In rare cases, some of us may express a lack of trust as a way of protecting our child from potential harm or danger.
But it can be harmful for several reasons: Here are a few:
Trust is a critical component of any relationship, including the parent-child relationship. When we say, “I don’t trust you,” it can damage the child’s sense of security and undermine their confidence in the relationship. The child may feel hurt, rejected, and misunderstood, which can strain the relationship between the parent – child relationship.
A child may internalise that message as a personal failure. This can make them feel inadequate, unworthy, and unlovable, which can damage their self-esteem and self-worth.
If a child feels that we doesn’t trust them, they may feel compelled to hide things from their parent or lie to avoid being criticised or punished. This can create a cycle of distrust and dishonesty that further damages the parent-child relationship.
It can make the child feel like they can’t do anything right. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the child’s behaviour becomes increasingly problematic because they feel like they’re not trusted or respected.
By focusing on our child’s strengths and coaching our child to gain confidence in their abilities, we can create a more positive and supportive environment that fosters growth and development. This can help to rebuild trust and strengthen our relationship with our child, leading to better communication and behaviour in the long run.
5. “Why would you do that or what were you thinking”
We may say this to our child in a moment of frustration or disappointment. It can be a natural reaction when our child does something that appears to be illogical, reckless, or harmful to themselves or others.
We may be trying to understand why our child made the decision they did, or we may be hoping to encourage our child to reflect on their behaviour and learn from their mistakes.
It can be harmful for several reasons:
This kind of questioning can make a child feel stupid, ashamed, embarrassed, or incompetent, which harms their self-esteem.
When a child feels like they are being criticised or judged, they may become defensive and unwilling to communicate. This can prevent them from opening up and discussing their thoughts and feelings and we are not in the position to offer loving guidance.
It doesn’t offer any guidance on how to improve or what they could do differently. This can leave them feeling helpless and unsure of how to move forward.
Instead of asking “Why did you do that?” you can try saying something like, “Wow, that must have been really tough for you. Want to tell me more about it?” This helps our child feel like we’re on their side and creates a safe space for them to open up and explore their thoughts and feelings and move on to find solutions. It also helps our child feel empowered and capable and they learn to manage their own behaviour.
The way we communicate with our children has a significant impact on their self-esteem and emotional well-being. While we may have good intentions, our words can have unintended consequences that can harm our child’s development.
By recognising the positive qualities in our children and building their self-esteem, we can help them become confident, resilient, and self-assured people.
The Language of Listening® framework, the coaching model I use and teach, is a powerful tool that help us build strong connections with our child, support their emotional well-being, and encourage them to become their best selves.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of Language of Listening, and how to communicate with your child that builds their self-esteem and encourage positive behaviour, I can help. My coaching model can guide you to achieve the results you’re looking for. By adopting a supportive, empowering, and positive communication style, you can help your children develop a healthy emotional outlook and a strong sense of self, which will benefit them throughout their lives.
Contact me to learn more about my coaching model and how it can benefit you and your child. Together, we can create a nurturing and positive environment that fosters healthy growth and development for your child.