We all have good intentions when raising our kids, but often we don’t realize when what we’re saying is hurtful. Here are 10 things you might be saying to your teen that could be sending a message you don’t intend.
1. “Because I said so.”
Not only does this not provide a good reason for doing what you ask, it teaches your child that they should value your judgment above your own. During their teen years, while still respecting authority when appropriate, they should be finding their own sense of responsibility and morality, and this should be encouraged. Instead of saying, “because I said so,” explain why what you want them to do is important or what the consequences will be if they don’t.
2. “Don’t be mad/sad/upset.”
This teaches them that they should not listen to their own feelings and that they can control them. You are preparing them to be manipulated and not listen to themselves when they are uncomfortable. Honor and validate their feelings when trying to comfort them.
3. “Your brother/sister does/doesn’t do that.”
It is very hurtful to children when you compare them to siblings. Unless you want them to feel like there is favoritism, you don’t want to compare. You don’t want to encourage comparing themselves to anyone else anyway, because everyone has different strengths and hang ups they deal with.
4. “When I was your age….”
Along the lines of comparison, you don’t want to compare your child to yourself at their age. You want them to feel like their own person, with their own strengths and weaknesses.
5. “You don’t want that.”
Never tell your teen what they feel or what they want. It causes them to discount themselves and teaches them that others may know them better than they know themselves. Instead, try saying, “that may not be exactly what you expect,” or “you haven’t enjoyed that before, do you think it will be different this time?”
6. “I promise.”
When there is so much out of our control, it is dangerous to make promises. You never know what could cause you to break a promise, and when you do, you are causing trust issues and making your word lose value. Instead say, “I will do whatever I can to make it happen.”
7. “You’re so…”
When we label our kids, such as “you’re so smart/shy/athletic/etc.,” we’re are creating a limiting view of themselves for them. Even when we are being complementary, we are creating an image of themselves that now feel like they have to live up to. If we tell them they are shy, it may cause them to behave shyly. If we tell them they are smart when they make a good grade, it may cause them to think they are stupid when they don’t.
8. “I told you so.”
No one likes to hear this, adults included. It makes your child feel stupid when you tell them this. If negative consequences came from them not taking your advice, they will realize this anyway. It doesn’t need to be rubbed in.
9. “Shame on you.”
Shame is not a teaching aide. There is a difference between remorse and shame. Remorse teaches someone to regret something they have done, while shame teaches someone to regret who they are. You should never teach a child they should be ashamed of who they are. This feeling, once learned, is hard to unlearn.
10. “He/she is an idiot.”
When a teen hears you speak negatively of others, they will be afraid of you speaking negatively of them when they make similar mistakes. It also teaches them to think negatively of people when they see others make mistakes. Instead, say things like, “that was done carelessly,” “that argument was not very logical,” or “that mistake could have been avoided by…” It will help your teen see that you, and also them, can evaluate an action without placing judgement on the individual as a whole, which is a much healthier way to view others and themselves.
- How to Stay Connected Through the Teen Years (doorwaysarizona.com)
- 6 Habits of Strong Families (doorwaysarizona.com)
- Importance of Building a Relationship with Your Teen (doorwaysarizona.com)