Some of the criticism we hear can make our children feel more insecure than we realize. Often even in the long run. Therefore, beware of these sentences!
Of course, we all want our children to become self-confident adults. And most of the time, as parents, we do everything we can to strengthen and praise our children. But criticism is also part of parenting – and this is where some stumbling blocks lie.
Words often have more power than we realize. Criticism that is generalized or even hurtful can therefore damage the child’s self-confidence in the long term. Because it gets stuck in the child’s head as an unchangeable truth over which the child believes it has no control.
The psychotherapist Sabine Unger has christened these sentences “ban messages”. These messages can stifle children’s motivation to take their lives into their own hands. They then have less confidence in themselves later on and tend to blame themselves rather than others.
Especially if these sentences are said over and over again, they burn themselves into the children’s heads and possibly have the effect of a curse. Because what parents say, children believe.
Here are examples of phrases you’d better not say:
“The fact that you can’t do math is something you inherited from Mom.”
The sentence conveys the message to the child: It’s practically a law of nature that I’m not that good with numbers. So it automatically trusts itself less. After all, what’s the point of trying if it’s in the genes?
“Look what good grades your sister has!”
The message that comes across to the child is: you’re a failure by comparison. It can be very frustrating to spend your entire childhood being compared to supposedly “better” siblings. Instead, emphasize the child’s strengths, regardless of how others perform.
“That’s just like you!”
Drawer open, child in. Such sweeping sentences deprive the child of the opportunity to develop freely, to try things out and to keep discovering new things about himself. At some point, the child will believe that it is just the way the parents say it is.
“You always leave your things lying around!”
This sentence is definitely wrong. Because certainly there are enough situations in which the child just did NOT leave the things lying around, but put them away. But these positive examples are faded out, it is unfairly generalized. “Always” is a quickly said word, but it can have a very strong, hurtful effect.
“Never can you be counted on.”
The same applies to the word “never” as to “always.” It is immediately assumed that the child will never change either. Again, a label that burns itself into the child’s mind.
“Marie is rather a lazy child.”
Such sentences, uttered in the presence of the child, can weigh very heavily. In this way, you assign the child a fixed character trait that he or she must believe firmly belongs to her. A truth that it will certainly still believe as an adult: “I was rather lazy even as a child.”
“You old crybaby.”
The child is not only a crybaby, which is bad enough, she is also an “old” crybaby. So according to this, it’s been that way for a very long time and probably for all eternity. Not a nice idea, is it?
“You’ll never amount to anything.”
Another motivation killer. At the time of our own parents, this was a very common phrase that could do a lot of damage. Today, you rarely hear it. Fortunately!