There are many negative phrases that can have a large impact on an individual’s mental health and wellbeing. A lot of these phrases are directed at children, which can be damaging to their future. We are all guilty of using some of these phrases, maybe we have used them as a one-off in a moment of anger, maybe we use them on a daily basis, whatever the circumstances may be, these phrases need to be stopped.
One of the worst things that parents say to their children is ‘shut up’, ‘be quiet I am trying to watch TV’, ‘go away I am busy’. All of these things make the child feel as though they are not important enough to be listened to. Especially when they are told to be quiet so that you can watch TV or because you are ‘busy’… too busy to listen to your child? If they are excited to tell you something, you should listen to them, even if what they are saying seems silly to you. If they are upset and the matter seems small to you, it could be a big deal to them and the fact that they want to speak to you about it means that it must be important to them and they want you to listen and support them.
If children are always told to be quiet when they want to tell their parents something, they will eventually stop telling their parents anything, no matter how big or small the matter is. Leaving parents questioning themselves as to why their child keeps everything from them, or never spends time with them.
If children are stopped from talking and expressing themselves it can lead to mental health concerns in the future. They can become isolated and keeping everything to themselves is not good for their mental wellbeing. Parents are supposed to be there to support their children no matter what. They should be the child’s go-to person when they have a problem, but if they are always told to be quiet or go away, they start to feel as though they are not wanted, or that their problems are a burden on their parents.
Not allowing your children to express how they feel can be extremely damaging. For example, using phrases such as ‘don’t be such a baby’, ‘don’t be such a girl’, ‘big boys/girls don’t cry’, ‘stop crying or I will give you something to cry for!’ and so on and so forth, are all damaging phrases that can impact negatively on a child’s life.
Shaming boys for crying is much more common than shaming girls. The phrase ‘don’t be such a girl’ is used very often, by parents, friends and even teachers. For starters, this insinuates that being a girl makes you weak, like being a girl is a bad thing. Then the phrase also hints that only girls show their emotions. Why? Why is there still such a stigma around boys/men showing how they feel? So many people use this phrase with their young children. I have seen parents say this to their child when they start to cry after falling over or bumping into something, saying ‘you’re fine! Don’t be such a girl’. This embeds in the child’s memory, the more the child hears this phrase (or similar phrases), the more they believe that they are not allowed to express how they feel, only girls can do that…
Children are vulnerable, they need comfort and support. Yes they may cry when they fall over, despite them being physically fine, the fall may have scared them, maybe they were pushed over and they are upset at that, let them cry, comfort them, ask them if they are okay! Do not just send them on their way, tell them to brush it off and man-up, this may stop them from crying… but it also causes them to bottle up their feelings and that is never okay.
Comparing them to their other siblings or their friends is also very negative. Making them feel as though they are your least favourite, that you do not like them for who they are, trying to change their personality, their intelligence and so on. It can cause them to have very little self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-confidence is one of the key personality traits that people look for when hiring people for jobs.
As you can see, these are just some examples of how what we say can affect children. Some argue that it is not what you say it is how you say it… but I personally do not think that is true. Maybe for some phrases, but certainly not for others.
I would love to know your thoughts on this, so please leave comments below! Let me know some other phrases that you believe are damaging to children’s development, wellbeing and mental health.