The three phrases that you should never say to your children
There is a saying that states that "boys wreck your house, but girls wreck your head."
Currently, as my children are just-turned-four (boy) and seven (girl), I would be inclined to think that there is a lot of truth to those very words. While my four-year-old is like a tornado through the house, wrecking glass cabinets and chandeliers and pretty much everything in between as he whizzes by, my little girl is gracious and gentle and never breaks anything, but boy can she be a challenge in other areas instead.
Like when it comes to what she is going to wear. Currently, as her school does not have uniforms, we have almost daily battles over what constitutes as appropriate school attire, with me pushing for sweet pinafore dresses and muted coloured cotton separates from some children's boutique I spent my wages at while in Spain last summer, with her begging to be let wear glitter leggings and My Little Pony t-shirts and anything, anything, if it is as pink as pink can be. Sequins is also a firm favourite. (I am half admiring her bravado when it comes to style choices, I must admit. She is like a mini Carrie Bradshaw, that one.)
But anyway, with our daily debates, which takes place in the morning time mostly, when I am pushing to get us all ready and out the door, I often end up getting quite cross before we finally agree on an outfit. And then, after she is handed off to her teacher and I am on my way into work, I feel bad for having gotten angry, knowing she really just wants to wear the clothes she thinks are nice (don't we all?!), and start to worry about how this will affect her.
As much as these little "fights" are pretty insignificant and (I think) not very upsetting to her, I do find myself worrying about what they will be like when she is older. Like 12. Or 16, even. How will we fight then? I know I certainly had some pretty hefty arguments with my own mum when I was a teenager, much as we always made up and she is, and has always been, my best friend in the world.
But did you know that there are certain words you should never scream at your children, no matter how heated the argument? According to Psychology Today, something you said in the moment could actually come back to haunt you months, even years, later.
So if you want to avoid causing your child to feel shame, fear, or guilt, here are three phrases to avoid:
1. "You're making me crazy!"
Instead of using guilt to motivate a child, say this: "I don't like that behaviour." Be sure to tell them why a behaviour is not OK and explain the steps to change it. Help your child understand what he or she is doing to "drive you crazy," but don't let them feel entirely responsible for your mental or emotional state.
2. "What's wrong with you?"
This can cause a child to be ashamed of themselves, and as they grow up, they might doubt their own abilities or thoughts. Instead of using shame-inducing phrases, address the problem directly with "I don't like it when you ___." This will help them understand how to change their behaviour.
3. "You'd better ___ or else!"
This phrase uses fear to ask a child to change, and it teaches them to get what they want through aggression or intimidation. A better alternative to say is "When you ___, I feel ___." This gives your child a chance to empathise with you and change his or her behaviour.