A THERAPIST has revealed three things parents should never say to their kids.
Parenting is a learning curve with various styles and approaches to the hardest task of all – raising a child.
But there are some words and phrases that a child should never hear – the types of things they carry with them through life.
Take it from Shannon Moroney, a trauma specialising therapist in Toronto, who said: “I can’t tell you how many of my clients remember the exact words that were used years ago to demean, belittle, or invalidate them.
“What people often come to therapy for, as adults, is to dismantle the untrue self-belief [they picked up as a child] that’s now wreaking real havoc in their life.”
The a mum of 10-year-old twin girls and best-selling author warned the words we are told as kids shape who we are when we are older.
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She told Well + Good: “The most important thing to remember is that we don’t always know how our words are going to be received, particularly by a child.
“Dismissive words can really hurt."
She shared three things she would never say to her kids:
1. “You’re being so dramatic”
Kids scream, strop and catastrophize the smallest of things, such as not being able to have the snack they want.
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But refrain from calling a child dramatic – "one of the most minimising things that we can say to a child”, Shannon said.
She added: “When we invalidate somebody's feelings, they learn to keep silent about them.”
There’s no doubt kids’ reactions can be dramatic, and as a parent, you’re likely trying to teach them how to control their emotions.
Shannon said instead of teaching them to suppress their emotions, teach them how to overcome and move past them.
She said: “What we want to do as parents is let kids know that their feelings are okay to feel, but also that they’re not powerless in the face of them.”
Instead she suggests saying things like, “I can hear that you’re feeling a lot. Can we talk that through?” or “Can I help you figure out why this situation is feeling so big?”
2. “Stop crying”
Shannon encourages her kids to cry, rather than telling them to stop.
If they’re at home, she’ll tell them to go to their room and cry it out alone, before they are ready to talk about what is wrong.
She said giving a child this freedom to cry also makes it more likely that they’ll open up to you if there’s something deeper at the root of their sadness or upset.
Shannon gave the example of a who, when doing her homework, breaks her pencil twice and starts sobbing.
It could be that in fact, she’s had a difficult day at school – perhaps another kid or teacher said something mean – and she’s had enough.
Adults reach this limit before crying, too.
Saying “it’s just a pencil, stop crying”, will make her more likely to internalise whatever real feelings are at the root of the problem, Shannon said.
3. Anything about yours or their body
Shannon warns that describing a child’s weight or body, such as calling them fat or chubby, could trigger them into an eating disorder which they carry through adulthood.
Even praising thinness is problematic because it suggests to the child that their worthiness is centred on being small.
“To compliment them on it would be to reinforce a negative pattern,” Shannon said.
She also tells parents to stop making comments about their own bodies, such as “I need to go on a diet”, or “I’ve put weight on”.
“What you’re essentially saying is, ‘I need to change who I am to be good enough,’ and that’s what a child will hear about themselves,” Shannon said.
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And when it comes to food, reinforce that it is for celebration, joy, taste and comfort – not just fuel to be burnt off in the gym.
This helps a child to have a neutral relationship with food, rather than see it as bad or something to be controlled.
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