Think Before You Speak: 20 Ways Your Words Can Hurt Your Child


No matter what anyone says, words do hurt. They may not break bones but the wrong words said in the wrong way can break a spirit. Words are how we communicate with others and they’re very important. Think before you speak to avoid hurting your child more than you may imagine.

1. Check Your Tone

Anything you say affects your child, and if you use a mean tone, or a hateful tone, they remember that tone more than what you said. It can be very hard but keeping your tone of voice level, loving, and parental is an important part of learning to parent well.

2. Avoid Comparing

You’ve probably thought it. “why can’t you be more like …..” or “Why do you have to be like ……” this is a very dangerous road to travel with your children and can be very painful for them to hear. They are themselves, and they aren’t anyone else. Treat them accordingly.

3. Don’t Accuse

Even if you know for a fact a child lied, yelling “You’re a liar” is not going to get the results you want. It’s best to use the facts you have, and set the consequences without yelling mean things that you can’t take back.

4. Don’t Say Things You Can’t Back up

“I’m going to send you to live in a foster family.” “I’m going to smack you into next week.” These are phrases that hopefully you have no intentions of doing and should not do, if you can’t do it, or won’t do it, or it’s wrong to do it, don’t say it.

5. Don’t Ask Rhetorical Questions

If you know the answer, or don’t want an answer, don’t ask. Asking a child a question and then telling them to shut up is a waste of time and will not solve any problems.

6. Don’t Be Demeaning

It can be very hurtful to call your child an “idiot”, “stupid” or to tell them that they can’t do anything right. Don’t do that to your child. It’s not true, but you can make it come true if you repeat it enough.

7. Don’t Disregard Feelings

Don’t ever tell your children that they’re feelings are ridiculous or silly. It can be tempting when dealing with teen drama, and boy friend or girlfriend drama. But all these emotions your child has are real. They feel real hurt, real love, and real disappointment from the people they call friends. Be there for them.

8. Don’t Give Up On Your Child

It’s normal to get tired of children who are expressing bad behavior, but don’t use phrases that suggest you’ve given up such as “I’m done” or “I’m through with you” or other things like that. This can be very hurtful. Cutting off a child from your affections can be very scary and cause wounds that may never heal.

9. Don’t Sink to Their Level

Never tell a child “I hate you too”, or “I wish I never had kids” or other hurtful phrases such as that. Even if a child yells that at you, just keep loving them and letting them know you love them. They’re children. You’re the adult.

10. Don’t Label Your Children

You’re lazy, you’re the pretty one, you’re the dumb one, you’re the smart one — good or bad, labels should not be placed on children. They add pressure that doesn’t need to be on the child, and the bad labels can prevent a child from being all they can be.

11. Don’t Exclude Your Children

When you are talking to another adult about your child, don’t act like they’re not in the room. Include your child in the discussion about him or have him go to another room where he can’t hear.

12. Don’t Use Absolutes

Saying things like “you never” or you “always” do something is dangerous because of course that’s not true. Try to use truthful statements when talking to kids.

13. Don’t Have too High of Expectations

Children are going to be children, they can’t do the same things adults can do. Telling a child to “do his best” might have bad connotations since a child has nothing to compare it to. Instead, tell them to have fun.

14. Avoid the “Do as I say, not as I do” Trap

There have never been 8 words more destructive. Children need more information to make informed choices when you are not around. Give them to them.

15. Don’t Yell or Scream

Yelling and screaming, no matter the words you’re saying will take a toll on your child. Plus, it demonstrates very poor self-control and the main thing you want to teach your child is self-control.

16. Avoid Negativity

You’re going to have to say no, nothing is wrong with no, but if everything that comes out of your mouth is negative, children will learn to switch off your voice.

17. Don’t Tease Children Too Much

“Can’t you take a joke” is a common thing you’ll hear some parents say to their children when they start crying when being teased. You have to remember that children do not have the same frame of reference as we do, so they cannot take a joke in the same way.

18. It’s OK to say “I’m sorry”

If you want your child to say “I’m sorry” then you need to say it too. Avoiding saying I’m sorry when you’ve messed up is a bad way to teach your child to care about other people. Adults make mistakes, teaching them that you’re infallible is a problem.

19. Listen Without Interruption

When you ask your child a question it’s imperative that you listen without interruption to what they have to say and validate their feelings. If you interrupt them and coldly require absolute submission you’re only creating a child with low self image, not a strong adult who can make good choices.

20. Give Good Reasons

Avoid the “Because I Said So” approach with children. It doesn’t work and causes resentments which can lead to behavior problems. Instead, respect your child enough to give them a reason and if there is ever a real serious reason to not give them a reason, they’ll actually take you more seriously.

Children who were physical abused by their parents often report that the physical wounds healed up. But, the emotional wounds still remain. Words are very powerful, use them wisely.

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