There are some very good reasons that parents should apologize to their kids.
The words you say to your kids, and how you say them, will be the voice in their heads the rest of their lives. I know this for a fact because my kids repeat things to me that I said to them as they were growing up. Of course, some of them are humorous and we laugh about them now, but that’s not always the case for the way parents speak to their kids.
Without even realizing it, there are some things that parents say that can have long-term negative effects. If you find yourself saying these phrases in any form, please circle back and tell your kids you are sorry. Parents should apologize when they say…
I’m ashamed of you. Shaming your kids will only hurt their self-esteem and confidence. You may think it’s a motivator, but it’s actually a dampener.
Be part of the clean plate club. I cringe that I said this to my kids. In my defense, I said it because my mom used to say it to me. But forcing kids to eat every speck of food on their plates even when they are full can result in an unhealthy relationship with food as they grow up.
Why can’t you do it (or be like) so-and-so? Comparison does not motivate; it only causes your kids to either give up because they can’t compete or to live only for your approval, thinking that’s the way to earn your love.
You make me so angry (unhappy, upset, frustrated). You.You.You. Don’t blame your kids for your behavior and your emotions. Your kids are not making you do anything. You choose how you respond. You can instead say, “I feel upset when you do….”.
I don’t have time for you right now. Even if you are busy and cannot talk to or help your child in the moment, let them know that you hear them and will respond or help in 5, 10 or however many minutes you choose. “I love you and I hear you. Can you give me a few minutes?” Or “I hear you and I would like to discuss this with you this afternoon when you get home from school.”
Because I said so. I used this phrase too often and it was usually when I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I learned instead to say, “Let me tell you why.”
You always, never do such-and-such. The words always and never are extreme and can be hurtful. Using these terms to prove your point puts your child on the defensive, and downplays or ignores their efforts.
It’s not a big deal; you’ll get over it. It may not be a big deal to you, but it is a VERY big deal to your child. Validate their fears and frustrations and help them deal with those emotions instead of ignoring them.
You did great in the game (on the test, with your chores), BUT why can’t you do that all the time? BUT is the destructive word in this instance. Usually what comes after BUT invalidates the words that come before it. It’s best just to stick with the “you did great” and leave it at that. BUT will not motivate them to keep up the effort; it WILL make them feel like they can never quite totally please you.
You are lazy (fat, a baby, etc). Negative labels are often used in an effort to motivate kids to try harder at something, but they may backfire and cause your kids to give up and live up to those labels. Instead, pinpoint the action: “I see that you forgot to clean your room after I specifically asked you to. You chose instead to play video games.” Then you can talk about consequences.
There are probably more phrases that you can think of, but these jumped out to me because I either experienced them or used them on my kids.
Being mindful of the words we use with our kids takes patience, restraint and intentionality. We cannot carelessly throw negative phrases and words to our children and then act surprised when they exhibit unhealthy behaviors. Your words matter.
If you struggle with communicating in a healthy way with your kids and sometimes worry about how your words are affecting them, schedule a free phone call here.