What You're Saying To Your Kids Can Impact Them For A Lifetime

by Holly Garcia
Originally Published: 
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“Holly, I am so disappointed in you.” Ugh. Even though I’m grown, my heart still stings at the memory of my mom telling me she was disappointed in me. Was she actually disappointed in me? Probably not. It was more likely that she was disappointed by something I said or something I did, but that’s not how it came across. Those weren’t the words she used, and as the recipient of those words, I’m here to tell you, words matter. It’s nothing new. It’s something we all know, but it is so much easier said than done. Especially when it’s your littles who are the people grating on your last nerve.

I call my girls’ minions of darkness. It’s all in jest. They think it’s hilarious and sometimes will even act the part if they feel so inclined. They know that when I pull this one out that it’s like firing warning shots. It’s how I communicate to them to stop the madness without full-on losing my shit. But honestly, more often than not, I am at my wit’s end. When we (as parents) are stressed out or have just had it for the day, we might say things we don’t mean, or rather don’t think about how little ears will interpret the words we are saying.

Remember that whole “sticks and stones” saying, from when we were kids? Well, it was a bunch of bullshit then, and it still is now. It’s less about what words you say and how those words make people feel. There are a handful of phrases and sayings that ought to be retired from your conversations, especially with your kids.

Strike These Phrases From Your Conversations

It’s Not A Big Deal

There is nothing like a small person having a meltdown over nothing (like the fact you said no to their hundredth request for a new pop-it) to make you lose your cool. While it isn’t a big deal to you, invalidating their feelings is basically telling them what they’re feeling doesn’t matter.

It certainly won’t solve your current situation, and truthfully the only thing that might come of this is that they carry the notion forward into other areas of their life, whether it be relationships with friends, at work, or romantically.

Speaking In Absolutes (Always/Never)

Ugh. I think this is the one I hated the most as a kid. According to my mom, I always gave up, and (or) I never tried hard enough (love you, mom). But here’s the thing: I didn’t always give up. And there were plenty of times I tried as hard as I possibly could. Talking to your kids in absolutes doesn’t allow for conversation or exploration. Don’t box them into a corner before they’ve had time to discover who they are.

You Make Me Feel…


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Might you be disappointed by something your kids do or say? Do they do things that influence feeling some kind of way? Of course. But mixing people’s words and actions with feelings is something to be cautious about. It is very easy to cross the line between making children aware of how they impact other’s feelings, and using words like this to be manipulative.

You Should Know Better

They’re kids, so do they really? I know sometimes they do the most ridiculous, asinine things. Even though we’ve told them a million times over to do (or not do) something, but hey– we still have some grown folks doing stupid ish. Use these opportunities to help them learn, grow, and work on problem-solving. Don’t guilt them into making a change, ’cause honey, that change won’t stick, and they’ll resent you for it later.

Let Me Do It

Sometimes when you’re already running behind it’s just easier to tie your little one’s shoes or zip up their coat for them. If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. Because when you stop them in the middle of trying to do something on their own, you take away an opportunity for them to learn. Let them be the little engine that could.

Labeling Them Based On Outcomes

You’re a great speller. You’re so beautiful. You’re a great rock climber (what, we need some variety). Kids are incredibly perceptive people. If you tell your child they’re a great speller after getting a 100% on their test, the next time they take another test and score 80% because they didn’t do as well, to them, it might translate to they are no longer a good speller anymore and get disappointed. Maybe instead, talk about how you’re proud that they did the best they could.

Don’t Worry, Parents, You’re Doing Great

There are many more things that could cause more immense psychological damage than the words above, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to be aware of how you’re speaking to your kids. There are some things that might not seem like a big deal now, but could potentially stay with them long term.

The truth is, none of us totally have nailed this whole parenting thing. We’re all going to make mistakes and occasionally lose our ever-loving mind with it comes to our littles. We will say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and that’s okay. As long as we’re making a conscious effort to change our conversations. For those of you who think this is all a bunch of new-aged, snowflake, in-your-feelings kind of psychology, think again. Maybe this is the way it always should have been?

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