Times have certainly changed since those of us who are now parents were just kids ourselves. And with the changing times comes changing parenting styles. Although they may have meant well, there were a lot of old parenting tactics used on us that ended up causing quite a lot of psychologically damaging after effects. Before you ask yourself, “am I too hard on my child?” here are 5 psychologically damaging things you should never say to your kids.
Psychologically Damaging Tactic: tell them you will leave them somewhere
How many times have you been at the playground and after a few hours it’s time to go. But when you tell your child it’s time to leave, they run, cry, and throw a fit. It’s tempting to “threaten” them with leaving without them.
Of course, you were never actually going to leave them at the park alone, but a young child takes this very seriously as a threat of abandonment. If they feel that there was a real chance that you would actually leave them on their own, it could potentially damage their secure attachment to you as their caregiver.
Try Instead: Give them a buffer time to transition to the idea of leaving
Start preparing them to leave a few minutes before you are actually ready to go. Give them a 20 minute warning, and then a 10 and a 5. Tell them you are starting to pack up, and it will take another 2 minutes. All of these “extra” minutes will help them come to grips with the idea that it’s time to leave, without “ripping them away” from their play with no notice at all.
Psychologically Damaging Tactic: There’s no such thing as ghosts
Even with their special night light, your child might still be afraid of the dark, or a monster in their closet or under the bed. As an adult, it’s easy to dismiss your child’s fears by telling them that whatever it is they are afraid of “doesn’t exist”.
Unfortunately, this will do more harm than good as you are telling your child that his or her very real fear is something you don’t believe is real. It will cause your child to keep certain things from you that he or she fears, on the chance that you might dismiss these fears as fake or nonexistent.
Try Instead: Acknowledge the fear and figure out a way to conquer it
Instead of dismissing the fear as unreal, tell your child that you understand they are feeling afraid and you know how scary that can be. Then, find a way to “defeat the monster”.
Maybe it’s checking under the bed, or maybe it’s making your own homemade monster spray! This will reassure your child that you are there to protect them, and that you want them to share all of their fears with you so that you can help them through it.
Psychologically Damaging Tactic: Don’t eat so much sugar you’ll get fat
Of course you want your child to be healthy, and that means keeping the sugary treats to a minimum. But there is a very fine line between teaching healthy eating habits and accidentally pushing them to develop a disordered way of eating.
Putting too much emphasis on not eating this and that in order to not gain weight will have your child grow up to have an unhealthy relationship with food in some way.
Try Instead: Introduce yummy and healthy foods and the benefits of both
Instead of focusing on what could “make you fat”, instead teach your child that a healthy and happy body needs all types of foods, each of which has a different purpose.
We need fruits and veggies to help us grow up strong and let us run around a play, but we also sometimes need a sweet treat to make our hearts feel happy. Teach them to listen to their bodies and trust themselves, so they will develop intuitive eating habits and be able to know just what their body needs.
Psychologically Damaging Tactic: Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about
If this sounds very harsh to you, that’s because it is. Firstly, if your child is crying, that means that they ALREADY have something to cry about. Secondly, a crying child is a sign of an emotionally exhausted or frustrated child.
Sometimes crying is the only way your child feels capable of expressing a disappointment, confusion, or painful experience.
Try Instead: Use breathing techniques to help them calm down
Pick a time when your child is not already worked up, and teach them an easy breathing technique. In slowly, out slowly. You can do it with them. Help them understand that this will calm them down from their fit, and allow you to understand their need in order to actually help them out.
Psychologically Damaging Tactic: Big kids don’t cry
This is just untrue. Babies cry, big kids cry, and even adults cry. Children who find that they cannot cry because it makes them “a baby” will purposefully avoid dealing with their emotions.
They will end up bottling it up inside and what once would have been tears soon becomes pent up aggression and anger.
Try Instead: Telling them it’s ok to cry
It is healthy and naturally for all human beings (yes, girls AND boys) to cry when something painful and/or upsetting happens to them.
We want to get away from the gender stereotypes that are placed on older kids (especially on boys) that they need to be tough and strong all the time. Sometimes it is absolutely ok to cry, and your child will find that they feel much better afterwards.