Parenting can feel like an uphill battle. Without a handbook or parents that modeled positive parenting behaviors, there is no way we can know exactly what to do. Even though our parenting skills will never be perfect, we can still choose to take steps to ensure that we are providing our children with love, rules, safety, security, and validation by not saying things that will make them wary of trusting us.
1. “If only you lost 10 pounds, you could fit into this dress.”
Parents that tell their young children, especially their daughters, that they need to lose weight are creating self esteem and body image issues that will stay with them throughout their lives. Instead of talking to children about their weight, parents can take control of the situation by buying and choosing healthy foods, modeling this behavior and making exercise a priority.
2. “You love ________ more than me.”
Parents that are separated, divorced, or caught in an argument are at risk for telling their children negative things about the other parent or feeling guilty or insecure when a child prefers to spend time with one parent over the other. Telling a child that they love one parent more than the other is a bad idea. It makes the child feel the need to prove their love to the parent and also to take care of the parent’s emotions. In addition, it makes the child less likely to open up to that adult about their true feelings in the future.
3. “Why can’t you be more like _______?”
Parents often have expectations for their children. Sometimes we want our children to be little athletes, musicians, math geniuses, etc. If your goal for your son is a million dollar NBA contract and your child loves reading and playing guitar, it is time to reevaluate your expectations. Telling your child that you wish they were more like someone else’s child makes them feel invalidated, insecure, and inadequate. Find something you love about your child and praise them for who they are.
4. “Look at everything I have done for you! You’re breaking my heart.”
Whenever we ask our children to take care of our emotions, we choose to give them anxiety and mistrust of adults. How can a child repair the broken heart of their parent? Children internalize our impulsive words and these words create their self image for years to come. Telling a child that you have done everything for them breeds guilt and insecurity as well. If you are seeking praise and validation from your children for being a parent, you may want to seek professional support to protect your children from anxiety, depression, and other issues as they age.
5. “I hate you too!”
We all know the saying sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me…right? Well, this is not entirely accurate, especially when it comes to our children. If your child gets so angry that they tell you they hate you, they need support to recognize their emotions and to regulate those emotions. Saying they hate you is not a personal attack on you, it is a response to a big emotion that they have not yet had enough time on the earth to navigate. If your 10 year old tells you she hates you and you tell her you hate her back, you are not teaching her a lesson. In fact, you are showing her that emotions can be so intense that they can cause a person to take their love completely away when they are angry. Just because they say they hate us, doesn’t mean they actually do and it definitely doesn’t mean that we should react.
Remember this: A child simply cannot comprehend adult emotions. Instead of reacting, respond with love and teach your child how to manage their anger and other intense emotions.
Rose Skeeters, MA, LPC, PN2
Rose Skeeters is the CVO of Thrive: Mind/Body, LLC, an innovative mindset coaching & online counseling practice aimed at empowering motivated individuals to master every area of their life. Rose also provides consulting and clinical supervision to like-minded and driven clinicians. Are you interested in working with Rose? Schedule a consult with her here or contact her today at Rose@thriveonlinecounseling.com.