Most of the time, which is not to say always, we are not aware of what we are teaching our children by labeling them each time they behave in certain ways, labels that we reiterate to them many times per day, saying them again and again. And it’s sad, because we leave behind tremendous psychological damage every time we do it, without realizing that it will adversely affect them later on. Read on to learn 4 things that we often say to kids that are psychologically harmful to them.
Children have fragile brains. If a 10-year-old boy hits his head against the concrete, he will suffer greater damage than his 35-year-old father would suffer under the same conditions. Most of us instinctively know this.
What is often ignored, however, is the fact that children’s brains are not just physically fragile, but also psychologically fragile. Psychologists compare the brain of a child to the softness of dough.
Harsh words that the 10-year-old boy’s father might say to him will cause psychological harm that can stay in his child for years.
4 mentally damaging things we tell children all the time
These seemingly harmless words can affect the psychological development of children much later in life. The following is a list of 4 harmful phrases children hear too often which cause them psychological harm.
1 – “You’re too sensitive.”
According to psychologists, many children are simply born with a more finely tuned nervous system. As a result, they react quickly and intensely to almost everything. The parents of these children often make the mistake of trying to eliminate this sensitivity.
Over time, this sets the child’s brain chemistry out of control and reduces their ability to empathize with others. After all, if they are taught that their emotions aren’t important, why would they think that other people’s are?
Child psychologist Elinor Bashe encourages parents to listen and accept their child’s emotions, even if they don’t seem logical.
2 – “That’s life.”
When your child comes home upset because the girl he likes rejected his request to go to the dance together, it can be tempting to say, “Well, that’s life.” What that phrase suggests is: “Hey – your experience here isn’t something unique, so suck it up.”
That would be entirely appropriate to tell a 25-year-old in the same circumstances. But the brain of a child is physically unable to grasp the fact that their experiences are not unique. When you tell them that, they feel guilty, frustrated and confused.
Instead, you must validate their experience and encourage resilience.
3 – “Because I said so.”
Little Luis refuses to go to sleep at 8 pm until he knows why he should always go to sleep at that time. His mother, exasperated says: “You want to know why? Because I said so.”
This is a terrible answer. It tends to create resentment in children as they are forced to accept a dogmatic belief. This will inevitably lead to a power struggle when the child learns to find answers for themselves that question the authority of their parents.
Instead, as frustrating as it might be, why not answer the question? In other words, your parenting decisions are based on logic – why not share it with your child? It will help them understand that sometimes the authority figure really does know best.
4 – “Shut up.”
Children learn from a very young age that the phrase “shut up” is meant as an insult. And let’s face it – the last person who should be insulting a child is their parent. Now, most likely you have a very good reason to tell your child “shut up”.
The reason is probably that they are overwhelming you. It happens often. Your child won’t stop singing Justin Bieber and it’s very frustrating. But instead of telling them to shut up, why not explain that – well, mom had a long day and she would really appreciate a little quiet time.
Better yet, give your child a chance to make all the noise they want but at x o’clock, they must be silent.