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 self-awareness.

3. “Why can’t you be more like…”

Comparing your child to their (perceived) better-behaved sibling, cousin, or 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.


  1. Quora
  2. Psychology Today

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Edward Miller

    I survived what you might call psychologically damaging things my parents said. I think you are overreacting with the statements made in this article. This kind of misguided psychology and political correctness are what’s wrong with our society today. I don’t condone abuse, but this is the same kind of thinking that has caused corporal punishment to go out the window, even though most parents did not take it to the point of abuse. I’m very disappointed with this kind of advice to parents. You should be too.

  2. John Hamblin

    So what’s your point?

  3. kim domingue

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree with number two. I don’t believe that you will do irreparable harm to a child with the judicious use of the phrase “because I said so” every now and again. I certainly don’t believe in using it indiscriminately nor using it all the time. I believe that a child should be given an explanation, suitable to their age and level of understanding, if they ask why. But children are smart and will sometimes play a parent by asking “but why?” to a different point in each explanation given until the parent realizes that they’ve spent half an hour explaining why the child needs to put shoes on to go outside when there is snow on the ground. At some point “because I said so” is a valid response to the “but why?”.

  4. Thea Dunlap

    I don’t agree that number two can be psychologically damaging, but maybe to some but in my experience I have always been told by the phrase but still I okay. But number 3 for me can be damaging to my self-esteem. 🙁

  5. cosmoschild

    as far as I know, parents say much worse things

  6. dr sunil bihade

    Each child & his upbringing varies as per culture and environment. What matters is how his coping abilities are builtup

  7. Louise

    I absolutely agree because it’s been my experience. Everybody commenting needs to understand that just because they don’t agree with this article, doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just not been your experience. It’s been mine so I’m agreeing with it.

  8. Ananta

    I think every parent uses these by some reason or just plain spite when kids do not listen…. you cannot let your kids grow up to b stubborn and lacking etiquette. It’s always better to try to inculcate these qualities than ignore and jet go the behavior

  9. Kono

    We are raising as society to find blame and hate with everyone. Parents are not perfect, neither are the children.

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