Remember the old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?" What about this one? "I'm rubber, you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you."
Kids think of all kinds of ways to deflect painful name calling and hurtful bullying. It's a defense mechanism that lets them feel a sense of control and dignity at a time when they are being verbally attacked. However, even though verbal abuse from other kids is hurtful, it doesn't compare to the pain a child feels when mean words come from their parents.
Parents should offer a safe environment for kids to be themselves. Loving children for who they are creates confidence and self-respect, two qualities they will need to become healthy and happy adults. While every parent makes mistakes with their words, there are some phrases that should always be off-limits, no matter what the situation. Take a look at the list below for five things you should never say to your kids:
1. "I Wish You Were Never Born"
Even though parents may say something like this in the heat of the moment and not really mean it, it does mean something to kids. Children struggle with insecurity and their place in the world, to begin with. When the people they love the most wish away their existence, it creates a deep sense of self-loathing, depression, and anger that can take years to overcome.
2. "You're Stupid"
A child's fragile self-esteem is easily wounded. Even if your child makes a dumb mistake, or does something when they should have known better, labeling them as 'stupid' is wrong. Negative labels are not only hurtful and mean, but they also cause long-lasting damage to the way a child perceives himself.
3. "You're Just Like Your Father/Mother"
If your child knows you have contempt for their other parent, hearing you compare them hurts. By doing this, you're basically telling your child that just because they remind you of someone you don't like, they're not worthy of your love. This devalues your child and removes who they really are, only to replace it with someone you don't like. No child deserves that.
Even if this is something you say to your peers, it's never okay to call your child a loser, or any other name for that matter. Name calling is not only juvenile, but it teaches your kid all the wrong things. First of all, it teaches them that name calling is okay to do to others. Second, it teaches them that it is not safe to make mistakes and be themselves around you. Keep in mind, your kid will mess up plenty, just like you.
5. "I'm Going to Kill You"
It may seem trite to throw around phrases like this one, but to kids, it means something. Little kids, especially, are very literal. They don't have the ability to process what it means to kill them, figuratively, so they will be very hurt and afraid if they think that you would want to harm them for doing something wrong. Killing is bad, and kids know that.
Kids mess up, just like adults. Children, because of their young state, are defenseless and vulnerable when it comes to their parents. The words you say to your children will stay with them for a lifetime, especially those that are painful since those terms have a more deep-seated effect on the soul. If you're frustrated and feel like you may lose control of your emotions or blurt out words you later will wish you could take back, it is best to step away and give yourself time to calm down. Once you're no longer angry, you'll be able to speak more kindly to your kids.