How These Common Phrases Could Be Damaging Your Child

Parent-child relationships can be difficult things, and often enough some stern words need to be said. However, we can often say things we don’t really mean and may have to apologise for later, but are there some common phrases which are more damaging than we think?


‘Why can’t you be more like..?’ is a phrase that immediately ignites competition and rivalry, and if said often enough can eventually cause tension and hatred between the compared people. If you compare them to a brother or sister, be prepared for some sibling rivalry. Similarly, saying ‘you’re just like your mother/father’ can often be a sneaky insult at two people at once. Involving children in adult disputes is always a bad idea, and can leave them with feelings of resentment and confusion when they are dragged into marital arguments. On the other hand, pushing your child away harshly with words that suggest you want to be away from them can damage their self-esteem. It is true that sometime you’ll want a moment to be alone, but quietly saying you need to be by yourself will be favourable to an angry outburst of ‘leave me alone!’ Children are dependent on their parents for their sense of self-esteem, and cutting them out suddenly can make them feel neglected.


A well known phrase which we probably have all heard is ‘I was more responsible at your age’. This sets up expectations and comparisons for your child to be more ‘perfect’, and using yourself as an example of this ideal childhood is often misguided and unrealistic. If you use such a phrase, be realistic, and be sure to acknowledge your shortcomings in front of your child as well. Telling a child ‘you should be ashamed of yourself’ when they have done something very wrong may seem a morally right way of hurting their pride, but sometimes this harsh approach can make a child more bitter than anything, and a more gentle approach could be preferable.

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