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10 Most Damaging Things Parents Say To Their Kids

Words are powerful tools that can shape a child’s reality, influencing their self-esteem, emotional well-being, and future relationships. As parents, our words carry immense weight, and it’s crucial to be mindful of the impact they can have on our children. In this blog, we’ll delve into some of the most damaging things parents say to their kids and explore the profound psychological effects these words can have, supported by scientific evidence on childhood trauma.

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damaging things parents say to kids


  1. You’re Worthless / You Can’t Do Anything Right

These seemingly harmless phrases can be deeply damaging to a child’s self-esteem. According to research constant criticism and derogatory statements can lead to long-lasting emotional scars. Children who grow up hearing such negativity may develop a negative self-image, struggle with self-worth, and exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression.

2. I Wish You Were More Like [Sibling/Friend]

Comparisons between siblings or peers can breed resentment and jealousy. Studies, including those in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, highlight the detrimental effects of parental favoritism or constant comparisons. Children subjected to these remarks may internalize feelings of inadequacy, leading to strained relationships and a pervasive sense of not being good enough.

3. You’re a Burden / I Wish You Were Never Born

Extreme statements expressing regret for a child’s existence can result in severe emotional trauma. The American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that such comments may contribute to a child’s development of anxiety, depression, and a heightened risk of engaging in self-destructive behaviors. The emotional wounds inflicted by these words can persist into adulthood, affecting the individual’s mental health.

4. I Don’t Love You Anymore

Love and emotional support are essential for a child’s healthy development. Some parents resort to withdrawing love to get their children to behave or do things in a way that is desirable to them. However, research in the Journal of Marriage and Family indicates that parental rejection or withdrawal of love can lead to long-term psychological distress. Children who experience a lack of love or a threat to their love bond with their parents may struggle with forming healthy attachments, impacting their relationships and overall well-being throughout life.

5. What Is Wrong With You/Are You Stupid?

Nagging and labeling children as stupid has a detrimental impact on the child’s self-esteem. Children who grow up with low self-worth find it harder to adjust to the adult world, especially in environments that are competitive and fast-paced.

6. Do As I Say/ Because I Said So

It can be hard in the day-to-day stress of parenting to sit down and explain every aspect of why certain tasks need to be done. It is easier to simply say, “Do as I say” or when questioned “why” by the child, to say “Because I said so ” but what we are doing unconsciously in that moment is telling the child that my word matters more than yours in this house, or sends the message that I run this house.

Creating imbalances and differential power dynamics erodes the parent-child bond. Children start to detest their parents and may even do things the opposite way only to rebel.

Instead of saying, because I said so, try these phrases depending on the situation,

Trust me on this one

Let’s discuss why

I have already answered that for you

In some situations, teaching our child good negotiation skills can work where a positive back and forth with the parent helps the child understand what is expected of them/appropriate in that moment.

For example:

Your child wants to go out to play in the rain and it is lunchtime at home.

You can simply tell them what is next in the routine and why we must stick to the routine at that moment.

At other times, you can use the word ‘when’ in phrasing to help the child negotiate reasonable terms with you. Like, “You can go out to play when you have completed your lunch.” This gives the child a structured way to approach the situation rather than a do-as-a-say approach.

Discussing why helps keep the focus on communication and harbors a respectful environment in the home.

7. Stop Crying

Supporting your child through emotions helps build emotionally resilient children. Suppressing emotions is taught from a young age when parents ignore the root cause of the disturbance and instead focus on the outcome which is the tears and the tantrums.

In this previous post of mine, I talked about how parents can help a child when upset with positive and encouraging words.

8. You Make Me Feel Bad/Angry When

Our job as parents is to not join in the chaos of our children. While this is easier said than done, having some phrases and strategies ahead of time can help you as a parent when you feel triggered by your child.

Saying, you make me feel mad is not going to help in a tough situation, instead calm yourself and then approach the situation with some helpful words.

Some phrases you can try when your child triggers you and doesn’t seem to be calming down are mentioned in this post.

9. Stop With The Drama/You Are Such A Drama Queen 

Another popular phrase parents use when they are at wits end with a child who is throwing tantrums is to simply label the child as a Drama Queen. Most times if we dig into the root cause of why the child seems to be using emotions as a way to manipulate us, it will point at unmet needs.

Needs for more connection and time with the parent, and feeling unseen in the home environment lead to the child feeling the need to amp up emotions in order to gain the parents’ attention.

If you can figure out a way to meet these needs for more one-on-one time you will see a marked improvement in the way your child will handle disappointments and hard situations without feeling the need to amp up their emotions. In the end, every child simply wants to feel heard and wanted in their home.

Such extreme emotional outbursts, which are usually labeled as “drama” are usually seen when there is a new baby in the house, or the primary caregiver has joined back at work and the child is trying to figure out if their parent still loves and cares for them.

Reassuring the child of your constant love and attention will eventually resolve the situation.

If we don’t resolve the situation the child grows up craving attention from the outside world, always seeking love and feeling insecure. Drama Queens need more attention.

In other situations children also learn this behavior from emotionally immature parents. If the parent in the household has a hard time accepting bad situations, and is loud and sulky when faced with challenges then the child may pick these strategies as a way to cope with difficult situations.

Therefore, it is said that childrens behaviors are usually a mirror to our unresolved traumas. We may have picked these behaviors in our childhood when we weren’t taught the right ways to deal with our emotions. This topic of reparenting our inner child is very deep and requires a lot of unlearning on our side as well. You can read this post to get acquainted with the subject if this is new to you.

10. You Are Fat/Skinny

Constantly body shaming young children has been proven to cause much harm to their self-esteem and ultimately may lead to other related issues like eating disorders, body weight obsession, and other unhealthy habits if not checked early on.

Yes, parents get concerned about the health of their child, but, focus language in the house around positive reinforcement, parental role modeling, and self-esteem enrichment rather than shaming.

Instead of commenting on body weight, it’s more beneficial to focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle, encouraging positive body image, and emphasizing the importance of overall well-being. Discussions about health can center around nutritious food choices, regular physical activity, and fostering a positive and accepting attitude toward one’s body.

Creating an environment that values individuals for their qualities beyond appearance is crucial for a child’s holistic development.

As parents, it is our responsibility to create a nurturing environment that fosters the emotional well-being of our children. Words have the power to shape their futures, and understanding the potential harm of damaging phrases is crucial.

Scientific evidence reinforces the significance of positive, affirming communication in promoting a child’s mental health and resilience. By choosing our words carefully, we can contribute to the emotional growth and happiness of our children, laying the foundation for a healthier and more fulfilling future.

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