4 Mentally Damaging Things We Say To Kids All The Time

Mentally Damaging Things We Say To Kids All The Time

Harmful, mentally damaging phrases kids hear too often. These words might affect a child’s psychological development far into his adult life.

Kids have fragile brains. If 10-year-old Jimmy bashes his head against concrete, he’ll suffer greater injury than his 35-year-old dad would under the same conditions.

Most of us instinctively know that much. What we often ignore, though, is the fact that kids’ brains are not only physically more fragile but mentally as well. Psychologists liken a child’s brain to soft, impressionable play-doh. Harsh words that Jimmy’s dad could shrug off might stay with his son for years.

These seemingly harmless words might affect a child’s psychological development far into his adult life. What follows is a list of 4 harmful and mentally damaging phrases kids hear far too often

#1 – “You’re too sensitive.”

According to psychologists, many kids are simply born with a more finely tuned nervous system. As a result, they react quickly and intensely to just about everything. Parents of such kids often make the mistake of trying to wash that sensitivity out.

Over time, this throws the child’s brain chemistry out of wack and reduces their ability to empathize with others. After all, if they’re taught that their emotions don’t matter, why would they think anyone else’s does?

Child psychologist Elinor Bashe encourages parents to listen to and accept a child’s emotions, even if they don’t seem logical.

Related: 4 Steps to Recovery After Childhood Emotional Neglect

#2 – “That’s life.”

When your child comes home upset because their crush rejected their dance request, it can be tempting to say, “Well, that’s life.” What that phrase suggests is, “Hey – your experience here is nothing unique, so suck it up.”

That might be totally appropriate to say to a 25-year-old under the same circumstances. But a child’s brain is physically unable to grasp the fact that their experiences are not unique. When you tell them that, they’ll feel guilty, frustrated, and confused.

Instead, you should validate their experience and then encourage resiliency.

Related: Effects of Growing Up as an Unloved Child and How To Heal

#3 – “Because I said so.”

I get it. Little Jimmy refuses to go to sleep at 8 pm unless he knows why. His mom, exasperated goes, “You wanna know why? Because I said so.”

That is a terrible response. It tends to build resentment in children because it forces them to accept a dogmatic belief. This will inevitably lead to a power struggle when that child learns to come up with answers on their own that question their parents’ authority.

Instead, as frustrating as it might be, why not just answer the question? I mean, your parenting decisions are based on logic – why not share that with your child? It will help them understand that, sometimes, authority really does know best.

Related: 30 Ways In Which Narcissist Parenting Affects A Child

#4 – “Shut up.”

Kids learn from a very young age that the phrase ‘shut up’ is meant as an insult. And let’s face it – the last person who should be insulting a child is their parent. Now, chances are you’ve got a very good reason for telling your child to ‘shut up.’

That reason is likely that you’re overwhelmed. It happens. Your kid won’t stop singing Justin Bieber and it’s really frustrating. But instead of telling them to shut up, why not explain that – hey, mommy had a long day and she’d really appreciate some quiet?

Better still, give your child a chance to make all the noise they want and tell them that at ‘X’ time, they need to be quiet.

Related: 5 Ways Childhood Emotional Neglect Causes Depression in Adulthood


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19 thoughts on “4 Mentally Damaging Things We Say To Kids All The Time”

  1. Jonathan challoner

    I love this stuff anything to move parents away from negative reactions with there children is a positive. That’s face it most perents are stressed out with other daily life things and children just add to it but if parents can stop for a moment and look most will see there children are also stressed out and they need us to be there for them and hapyness will follow if just ,till next time.

  2. I disagree with the third one for sure. With my daughter, if I answer her questions, she will negotiate round and round till the cows come home. Sometimes “because I said so” is a perfectly valid response, as long as you’ve explained to them that your decisions/rules are always for their (the child’s) benefit and safety. Not everything needs to be explained in the moment.

  3. Hi Helen,

    Thks for your sharing.I find what you said in your article is really true & I have made the 1st mistake quite often…. Now I know I shall not say that anymore 🙂

  4. I absolutely believe this to be true! I was told all of these things, and to this day I am never sure if I have the right to be angry about something, or if I am being “too sensitive”, and I am almost 62 years old…
    When we raised our kids I did everything the opposite, I asked myself, “What would have worked well for me at this age?” Or “How do I wish my parents would have handled a situation like this with me? ”
    It must’ve worked, because our kids still enjoy our company and comment on how we raised them taught them certain things. And they didn’t grow up hating us or feeling alone.

    1. What happens when they finally become an adult and are told to shut up,will they crumble because they’ve never heard theses words before ?

  5. I’m old school and I say “Amen”. I have been guilty of using those comments with my children and now see my daughter making the same mistakes

  6. I used to cringe when I heard people talking to their kids any old kind of way. I told myself when I was young I would not do that to my kids if I had any. When I had my 6 [4 lived] I never talked to my kids like that. I never lied to them. NO. I told them the truth about everything and anything that was going on. They are grown people now, and they have a lot of respect for me as a result.

  7. I agree with some of this but every kid is different, it’s impossible to just make a list of phrases that are harmful to them that would apply to all kids. If I tell my kids to shut up they would just laugh and keep on with whatever they’re doing.

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