One third of Americans regret their life choices and wish they could do things differently. But big things start small. Many of us do regret the words we uttered, things we said to people, especially to those who are closest to us.
It’s no secret that words have power to heal, but they can also hurt deeply. Especially when you’re at your most vulnerable, still being a kid with the vast world waiting to be explored. Things our parents say shape us in profound ways, some good, some inherently harmful.
So people on r/AskReddit are now sharing the things that should never, ever be said to children. From divorced parents screwing up their kid’s mind with manipulation to telling them they’re “useless,” the answers on the thread are cruel enough while being read, let alone being said to a small kid.
My drunken father once told me, "You'll never be the man that I am." I remember thinking, "You're damn right I won't be."
"you don't have the right to privacy", "you are a child, you have no rights", "at least I'm putting a roof over your head", "I wish I never had you".
'It's all in your head/you are just imagining it.' As it turned out, I wasn't imagining it and now I struggle to differentiate between what's real and what's not because I was led to believe I was imagining things constantly.
To find out more about how the things parents tell their kids can affect them and what damage it may cause on a profound level, Bored Panda reached out to Susan Petang from “The Quiet Zone Coaching,” who’s a certified life coach, teaching adults and teens. Susan said that a lot of our emotional dysfunction can originate with childhood experiences and messages.
“One of the most prevalent that I see is low self-esteem, which can result in anxiety, the inability to interact effectively in society, and being used and abused by the psychic vampires and bullies of the world,” she said and added: “Believe it or not, bullying, aggressive, and entitled behavior can also be caused by low self esteem!”
We had you so your brother would have someone to play with.
Trash talking about the other parent, then comparing you to them. 'You’re just like your father!'
"I am not asking you do to it, it is an order!" "Why did I give birth to you?" "I wish you were never born." "You are ruining my life." or "You ruined my life." "How dare you disobey me." "You are a disappointment." Or any insult tbh. Or comparing you to other kids, or to your siblings.
When asked about the things one should never say to another person, Susan said that it’s things like “'I hate you!' 'Don't be stupid!' 'Don't you ever learn?' or, 'Why can't you be more like your brother?'”
“Are you dismissive of your child's opinion, no matter how ridiculous it may seem to you? Sometimes it's not words, it's behaviors that create bad feelings. Do you ignore your child? Do you comfort them when they're crying, or do you let them 'cry it out'? Do you and your partner fight in front of the kids (especially when it concerns them)?”
'So you're saying that I'm a bad parent' in response to any form of help-seeking or constructive criticism was the worst for me.
Constantly comparing you with your older siblings and giving you extremely different treatment. It makes you feel inferior to them and like no matter how much you try or do, it will never be enough.
'You’re being dramatic' or 'Quit being emotional', 'why are you being difficult', 'you make things so hard on me', 'someone else has it worse so stop crying'.
The good news is that the right words and behaviors have the power to not only heal, but also build self-esteem, teach compassion, and provide examples of what healthy relationships look like. Susan explained how a parent should do that: “Listen to your children. Use reflective listening to engage them. 'It seems like you're upset. Want to tell me what's happening?' 'I'm hearing that you're really frustrated. Let's see what we can do to solve the problem.' 'I feel like you're very angry that I won't let you go out with your friends. Do you understand why?'"
Making fun of your kid for making a change in their life for the better. I was always anti-social and the complete opposite of athletic. When I began to try and work out to gain some muscle, I got teased by my parents. All that did was discourage me and make me want to quit.
I gave up everything I liked for you
95? Why not 100?
why can't you be like so and so's child, they do 'one impressive thing'
I have a list.
I wish I [terminated my pregnancy]
I wish I put you up for adoption.
List all the bad things about dad and then immediately tell me I look/act just like him.
What did I do to deserve such a disrespectful child why couldn't I have a good one? (I was not a bad kid at all, always home, cleaning the house, cooking for her, good grades, people pleaser, etc.)
She wonders why I never talked to her about big things happening in my life, why I put 5,000 miles in-between us, and why I haven't returned home for almost 10 years.
Meanwhile, the tone of your voice is also crucial as Susan said it's the setpoint for the conversation. “Do you want to have a discussion, or a fight? Stay calm. If you or your child is getting upset, take a break. 'I feel like I'm getting angry about this. Can we take a 10 minute break and finish the conversation when we're both calmer?'”
Sometimes, it’s a disciplinary issue that needs addressing, and in those cases, Susan suggests using the XYZ Limit Setting Statement. For example, “'When you do X, I feel Y, and I'd like Z.' For example: 'When you go out with your friends without permission, I get angry and anxious. I'd like you to tell me where you're going from now on.'”
I think probably the most toxic thing a parent can say to a child is any form of, 'Nobody will ever love you as much as I do' or 'I'm the only one who really loves you.' It's the psychological equivalent of a bear trap. Its purpose isn't just to hurt the kid, but to keep them from ever leaving.
Any time your mom talks about how much she weighed when she was your age. 'When I was your age, I weighed 98 pounds.'
In my experience, any time divorced parents say stuff like: 'Don't talk about that to your [other parent],' 'Tell your [other parent] this,' or 'Your [other parent] is trying to manipulate you.' It really screws with the kid's head.
At the same time, every parent should make sure to have consequences for bad behavior that fit the crime. Susan said that “you wouldn't ground your child for 2 weeks for not putting his plate in the dishwasher, and you wouldn't take his phone away for a day if he got caught shoplifting.”
When I was 11 I overheard my mother telling someone that at least my looks meant she didn’t have to worry about me being [touched]. That [screwed] me up for years.
My mother told me when I was 8, that nobody likes a fat girl. I wasn't even really overweight. That and many other things she said and did made me develop an eating disorder...at the age of 8. More than 30 years later, and a lot more mental abuse, I still struggle with the whole eating thing.
after i got accepted to my dream college my mom told me i’m too stupid to actually go and succeed. i graduated high school with honors. but i thought she was right. i dropped out before i even went. still regret it
“Another great strategy for communicating with your children is to ask yourself, 'What effect will these words have in the long run? What will I teach my child by saying this?' Is what you're saying going to teach them that it's OK to shout at others? That they're 'bad'? Put yourself in their position. What are they experiencing?”
According to the certified life coach, “children’s reality is much different from what we experienced when we were that age,” and if you're not sure, just ask!
I wish you were the one who [passed away] not your father.
As your mother, I have to love you, but sometimes I really don’t like you.
"I understand but I don't respect you" - My mother after I came out twice. Some people think that's not a big deal. It is huge and it f***ing hurts so much.
We also talked to Kimberly Koljat, a licensed marriage and family therapist who said that “it is true adults often underestimate children’s capability of understanding the world around them, which can even have a negative impact on children and their sense of self.”
Not only can parents deeply hurt them by choosing the wrong words to communicate themselves, but the way they look at their child can cause a sense that children’s beliefs and thoughts are not to be trusted or that they’re invalid. “It later creates difficulty in setting boundaries, making decisions, or maintaining a positive sense of self,” said Kimberly.
"I'm glad that you're adopted it reminds me that you don't have my dna" "you're not a part of this family" and even in early years like 6 and 7 years old "you're not special. You are nothing and never will be something!"
My dad once told me he missed when I was a little kid, because back then I was dependent on him and couldn't say no.
I told that to a psychiatrist and her eyes damn near fell out of her face.
However, the family therapist explained that children are immensely observant “and pick up on cues from caregivers and significant support individuals in their lives. Young children’s main need in life is attunement, which is why we, as adults in their lives, have a very important role of co-regulating children and being emotionally congruent models for them.”
"You're a useless disappointment" "Do you think you'll ever amount to anything?" "You're pathetic." "You're like a tiny little ant-- I could destroy you so easily." "I don't deserve you. I'm too good of a parent for you." "You're an abuser."
“We had you so you could donate organs/plasma etc to your sibling” like that film my sisters keeper.
I never wanted to have kids with your dad. He forced me to have you.
In fact, “Children often know when their parents are divorcing long before parents believe them to know, not because they 'overheard' them talking about it, but because of emotional cues leading up to the event of separation,” Kimberly explained.
my mum told me i deserved nothing in life because i forgot to do the dishes before she came home lol
"Look 'x' kid is doing it better than you"
"Look that kid is 'x' year old and they can do it"
"You're the reason why your dad and I almost divorced."
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According to her, one of the biggest skill sets we can offer children in their development is helping them expand their emotional literacy. “As adults, we assume that means we teach them words to express how they feel, but that is only one way of knowing. Children are communicating and learning through their other ways of knowing—verbally, kinesthetically, visually. Helping them learn the four basic feelings of mad, sad, glad, and afraid are just the start, we have to help them understand more complex emotions and the important skills of empathy.”