The thing about toxic words is that many people do not realize they are even using words that have such a deep effect on others. Some are so used to using certain patterns of speech to try to accomplish various forms of control or self-esteem that they never stop to think they are actually devaluing others in their lives. Stopping to consider if what’s being said in your home is actually toxic is the first step in preventing damage from continuing.
1. Are You Making Your Children Victims of Emotional Abuse?
Comments about height, weight, hair, skin, attractiveness affect a child deeply. As their parent, your love and acceptance of them as a whole person is vital to your child. While a child may have some physical appearance insecurities, parental guidance and expression of love can supersede the comments of others they encounter who may be unkind.
2. Do You Make Annoyed Comments About Their Mannerisms or Use Sarcasm and Joking Often?
Although you may be presenting something as a joke, there’s something at the core you’re actually basing this communication on that a child will not know how to process and may be hurt by. Don’t risk causing your child a lifetime of self-worth issues when you could use your words to build your child up! Making suggestions of doing things differently is much healthier than making comments your child won’t know how to use to adjust.
3. Have You Begun a Habit of Expressing Selfish Wishes When You Are Angry?
If a parent, in anger or despair, says things like, “I wish you’d never been born,” “I wish I’d never had kids,” no matter what the child has done that “provoked” the parent, this can be very damaging to the child. These comments attack a child’s identity, makes them feel unloved and unwanted, and could even lead to self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
4. Do you make your child feel like a burden about money, time, and effort?
I looked up to my parents because they were very successful in what they wanted to do. I was lucky; I didn’t have to look far for role models.
If your child is hearing you say how much their existence or even mistakes cost you constantly, or how you wish you’d have enough of something for what you’d like to do but instead you have to do things for them, they will feel they are not worthy of your time, effort, and money. They may feel guilty, depressed, angry, or anxious about how to not be such a burden to you. These feelings may affect their day-to-day actions and interactions with you and others in unhealthy ways.
5. Have You Caught Yourself Making Unhealthy Comparisons Between Your Child and Others?
Perhaps you’ve started comparing one child to another child, whether the other is a sibling, a friend, a cousin, or otherwise. Maybe you’ve even compared your child now, to your child when they were smaller. These comparisons are not healthy, productive, or beneficial for growth; they typically cause shame, frustration, anger, and even can lead to depression and anxiety in children.
6. Do You Ever Threaten Abandonment, even as a “Joke”?
Threatening to just leave, walking out of the house without saying goodbye, giving your child the silent treatment, and similar threats are very scary to a child, and can put them in constant fear, whether they verbalize this or not. This can affect their behaviors negatively in various ways and rule their internal thought life with this overarching constant background threat in mind.
7. Have You Fallen into the Habit of Making Empty Promises?
Empty promises hurt your relationship with your child in the long run. Perhaps you have thought making such a promise could get you out of a short-term predicament, and you forget about the promised thing or activity, as you never intended to really do it, but your child does not forget and really looks forward to it. This degrades trust, which is necessary for the parent-child relationship.
If you’ve found yourself struggling with one or more of these habits in the way you talk to your kids, decide now to make a change. Seek counseling for you and your child, read articles like this one and parenting books, take time to evaluate and plan what you’ll say instead in these situations, and don’t forget to apologize when you make a choice that isn’t a good one. Everyone makes mistakes but owning up to them can make a big difference in establishing new patterns and habits. Your child may not thank you now, but they will benefit from your efforts in the long-term.
Reference and citation:
- Social connections can ease ‘toxic parenting’ behaviors, experts say
- 10 Things Toxic Things Parents Say
- 5 Toxic Things Parents Say To Their Children