10 Things Parents Say That Are Very Damaging To Children

Children are precious gifts from God. Sometimes, we praise them. At other times, we criticize them. Yet a few other times, we curse them.

Don’t Say These Things

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We often do it knowingly or unknowingly, but the fact remains that we may even hurt them when we do such things. So, let’s look at the things you should never say to your child.

Here are 10 things you should never say to your child, even if you’re angry.

1. Why Can’t You Be Like Your Siblings?

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“I’ve realized that comparing my children to each other can be detrimental,” Sohaib Hasan, an educator, counselor, and founder of Oh My Classroom, discloses.

“So, don’t say things like, ‘Why can’t you be more like your sibling?’ as it can harm their self-esteem and create rivalry.” 

2. I’m Disappointed in You

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“It’s normal to feel disappointed sometimes, especially when our children make mistakes, but expressing it in this way can make a child feel like they’ve let you down,” notes Supriya Wakchaure, a consulting pediatrician and neonatologist at Clinic Spots.

2. I’m Disappointed in You

angry mother

“Instead, communicate your feelings without making them personal. For instance, ‘I’m surprised you chose to lie about this. We value honesty in our family.'”

3. You’re So Lazy

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“I believe it’s crucial to be mindful of our words, especially when addressing our children. Phrases like ‘You’re so lazy’ can hurt your child. Such phrases can damage their self-esteem, create unhealthy comparisons, and instill a fear of failure,” Iesha Mulla, a parenting expert and founder of Parental Questions, points out.

3. You’re So Lazy

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“Instead, try to focus on the behavior rather than the child. For instance, instead of saying, ‘You are lazy,’ you might say, ‘I noticed you’re having trouble getting your tasks done. How can we work on this together?’

This approach fosters a more positive environment where children feel loved, encouraged, and ready to grow.”

4. You’re So Smart

boy raising his hand in class

“People often think they’re boosting their kid’s self-esteem with phrases like, ‘You’re so smart’ or ‘You’re a genius.’

But what I’ve noticed in my years of coaching parents is that these comments can actually do more harm than good. They set kids up for stress and anxiety down the line because they feel they have a reputation to uphold,” parenting expert and founder of The Joy Filled Mom Nicole Johnson remarks.

4. You’re So Smart

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“That’s why I always tell parents to focus on the effort their kids are putting in or the smart strategies they’re using. Simply switching up your language like this can make a world of difference, especially in the long run.

It encourages kids to take on challenges head-on and see setbacks as just another steppingstone to success.”

5. Why Can’t You Be More Like Others?

woman scolding

“As a parent, one phrase you should avoid saying to your children is, ‘Why can’t you be more like others?’

This comparison not only undermines a child’s self-worth but also fosters feelings of inadequacy and resentment,” according to Ryan Sultan, a therapist, professor at Columbia University, and medical director at Integrative Psych.

5. Why Can’t You Be More Like Others?

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“Instead of focusing on how they measure up to others, it’s essential to nurture their intrinsic qualities and celebrate their personal achievements.”

6. You Never Listen to Me

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“One of the things you should never say to your child is, ‘You never listen to me!’

It’s problematic to do so because they might start thinking they always mess up or can’t do anything right,” family therapist Michelle Landeros reveals.

6. You Never Listen to Me

listening child

“They may have actually listened but got lost in translation. Maybe they were distracted. Throwing statements like that can take a toll on a child’s confidence and create a gap between both of you.”

7. Stop Crying

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“Crying is a helpful tool for emotional expression, though sometimes difficult to deal with. When you tell a child to stop crying, you’re essentially telling them that their feelings are not acceptable,” Easton Gaines, a holistic clinical psychologist, and MindCare Psychology founder, reveals.

7. Stop Crying

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“This can lead to emotional suppression, where children learn to bottle up their feelings instead of processing them in a healthy way. It can also create a sense of isolation and frustration, as the child may feel misunderstood.

7. Stop Crying

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Instead, try naming their emotion, validating it, and reflecting that you are there to help them feel it. You can use phrases like, ‘It looks like you might be feeling sad right now. Am I getting that right?’ ‘It’s okay to cry, and I am here for help when you need me. Let me know when you’re ready to talk about what is wrong.'” 

8. You’re Worthless

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“It is essential never to use harmful or belittling language such as ‘You’re worthless’ or ‘You can’t do anything right,’ as it can instill a lack of confidence and feelings of inadequacy in children,” Jennifer Worley, a psychologist and clinical director at First Light Recovery, advises.

8. You’re Worthless

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“Instead, use constructive and supportive language that won’t probably hurt their feelings.” 

9. You’ll Never Need to Know This

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“You should never tell your kids, ‘You’ll never need to know this’ or ‘You’ll never use this,'” says Heidi Jorgensen, a math tutor and owner of WiseKinde.

“That sentiment has a child shutting down their mind to learning so quickly, and it sticks with them for ages.”

10. Try Harder

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“Don’t ever tell your child to try harder. How do we know the child hasn’t tried? There can be many reasons why a child (or anybody, really) isn’t successful at something. It could be that they need more support, or they need to be shown a different way to accomplish a task,” senior K12 education consultant John Schembari remarks.

10. Try Harder

stressed student doing homework

“Otherwise, they could get frustrated and opt out. Instead, we as parents should help our children figure out their next steps, goals, etc.”

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Key Takeaways

happy family

These are just a few of the things you should never say to your child, but you’ll be fine if you learn to avoid them so as not to hurt your kids and even jeopardize their future.

This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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