Phrases Parents Use That Can Discourage Children

Sometimes, words parents say can hurt and discourage children. Here are a few phrases you should never use during conversations with your children.

By Arun Sharma

Phrases Parents Use That Can Discourage Children

Being positive in our interactions with our children goes a long way in helping them stay motivated and focussed, strive to do well and grow up into well-balanced individuals.

As parents, we always try our best to keep our children in a positive frame of mind. We also try to keep their morale high. However, sometimes, things do go wrong. Either inadvertently or when overwhelmed by what our children have done, we end up uttering words or phrases that shouldn’t be a part of parenting vocabulary. The harsh words we use to admonish our children can lacerate their heart and leave them feeling demotivated and discouraged.

The discouraging words parents say can be divided into four broad categories:

  1. Threat
  2. Sarcasm
  3. Abuse
  4. Irrational statement

Threat: Parents are gradually shifting away from using the rod to correct their child to admonishing them. However, while admonishing many parents resort to issuing threats. Not only do threats make the child feel insecure but also discouraged. Here are some threatening phrases parents use to warn, stop bad behaviour or gain control of the situation:

  • If you don’t stop what you are doing, I am going to give you a good reason to cry.
  • If you don’t eat what’s on your plate, I am not going to give you food hereafter.
  • Go to bed right now! Else, I am going to call that monster waiting by the window.
  • If you don’t brush your teeth, I’ll pull the dirty ones out.
  • Tell a lie or use bad language and I’ll chop off your tongue.
  • If you don’t study well and fail in the exams, I will pack you off to a boarding school.
  • Do exactly as I say. If not, I won’t help you if you get into trouble.

Sarcasm: Only a few parents have the ability to use humour in a positive way to make a child ponder upon her actions and reform. Most attempts often end up with a note of sarcasm and hurt the child’s feelings. Here are some typical examples of poisonous and discouraging sarcasm:

  • If your friend’s parents are so cool, why don’t you go and live with them? I’ll help you pack up.
  • Since you aren’t interested in studies, I would suggest that you sweep the streets.
  • You always seem to be crying. Let’s change your name to sissy boy.
  • Do you feel better after crying sissy?
  • You’re ridiculous, do you know how not to be stupid?
  • Do you think others love to watch the chewed-up food inside your mouth when you eat with your mouth open?
Discouraging phrases hurt the emotions of the child and establish the discouragement. Therefore, the purpose of altering the child’s behaviour is not served. Furthermore, when discouraging phrases are repeatedly used, the words are reinforced in the child’s mind and the child tends to construct his thoughts based on these psychological reinforcements. — *Hannah S Mathew

Abuse: Some parents adopt a harsh attitude when it comes to treating their child. Such an abusive approach can cause severe damage to a child’s emotional and psychological well-being. Here are some common verbal abuses that some parents often resort to voicing:

  • I regret the day you were born.
  • You are a good-for-nothing!
  • You’ve got what you deserved (when something bad happens to the child)!
  • No one likes you because you are such a _______ (reason)
  • What wrong did I do to deserve a child like you?
  • Don’t keep complaining. Go and stay in your room!
  • Shut up! I just can’t tolerate your whining.

Irrational statements: A lot of times, parents make statements that display poor thinking and an unreasonable attitude. Illogical statements leave children with a feeling of confusion and the sense that parents are imposing their authority on them. Here are some such statements that sound discouraging to children:

  • Don’t stare at me (usually after refusing a request)!
  • If you don’t brush at night, your teeth will fall off in the morning.
  • You can’t have it because I don’t want you to have it.
  • It’s a stupid question (when the parent doesn’t know the answer).
  • If you swallow the seeds (any seed), a tree would sprout from your head (usually to prevent the child from swallowing the seeds when eating any fruit).
  • It is so because I said so.
  • There is no reason why some thing are as they are. They are just like that.

The phrases mentioned above are just a few of the many that parents use during their conversations with their children. Although most parents don’t use these phrases with the intention of hurting their child, to the children, they sound very discouraging. So, it is best to erase these words from their vocabulary.

*Hannah S Mathew is a freelance teacher, trainer and certified diagnostic counsellor.

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