Psychologically damaging things parents say to their children

Are you guilty of saying these psychologically damaging things to your children? Most parents are.

As children grow, they need to be nurtured in such a careful way, since their minds are so delicate. As a child, our deep-rooted perceptual foundations are built by the influence of the adults in that child’s life. There are plenty of aspects that come into play when developing a child’s healthy psychological and cognitive development and certain actions and phrases can be very damaging to that process.

When you think of ‘damage’, you may think of abuse or abandonment, which can, of course, impact a child in a massive way. Still, there are also more subtle ways that can harm your child, and they’re a lot more common than you might think.

Here are some common psychologically damaging things most parents say to their kids:

1. “You’re too sensitive” or “Stop being so emotional”

Surprisingly, a lot of people say this to their child and until you think about the damaging ways it can encourage children to shut off from their emotions, it doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Sure, it’s great not to let small things get to you, to teach your child resilience and strength of character, but they also need to know that when they’re feeling emotions – it’s okay to feel them. Don’t allow your reaction to be based on whether you deem the child’s distress to be valid or not. Encourage the child to gauge whether or not this is an important thing to be upset over and allow them to feel their emotions in a healthy and open way.

2. “Because I said so”

This is a well-known phrase in parenting and can actually teach children quite a lot of negative things, rather than being a way to get them to do what you tell them. It establishes a controlling atmosphere in which the parent is in control of the child, rather than helping them understand for themselves why they can’t or shouldn’t do a certain thing. This can passively train the child to treat their inner thoughts and questions as insignificant and that they should be suppressed. It can negatively affect the child’s self-confidence and their self-awareness.

3. “Why can’t you be more like…”

Comparing your child to their (perceived) better-behaved sibling, cousin, friend can have a massively negative impact on your child’s mental health and psychological development. This compares the child in a humiliating manner, making them feel as though they themselves aren’t good enough, instead of evaluating how their behaviour could be improved and working alongside the child to implement a change. It can affect the child as they may grow up to isolate themselves through fear of comparison and will always compare themselves to others, focusing on their own shortcomings, instead of being happy with their own accomplishments.

4. “If you don’t come now, I’ll leave you here”

This phrase is a well-known tactic in parenting to get children to leave a certain place and go with them. For example, when leaving the park to go home, the parent will tell the child that if they don’t come now, they will leave them behind. Even though the parent may never actually do this, it can be deeply damaging to the child since the child’s deep-rooted attachment to the parent can be put into question. Even if said in a light-hearted way, it can shake the foundation of security that the parent offers and the child can feel neglected, even though they haven’t actually been left.

So if you say any of these psychologically damaging things to your young ones, stop now. Think through the processes behind what you’re saying and how it may affect your child. Remember to nurture and cherish your child at every opportunity – build their self-esteem, self-worth, independence and self-awareness. The best advice is to know your child, know what is affecting them and what will help them and live by those guidelines.

Do you have children? Are you guilty of saying these or some other psychologically damaging things to your kids? Let us know in the comments.

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I'm a psychology student with a passion for books, good food and movies. I can often be found reading self-help articles snuggled up in bed with a cup of coffee or writing about anything and everything in a quiet cafe somewhere.