9 things you say that hurt kid’s self-esteem

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — May 21, 2019
  • 1 / 10

    Words are very powerful, so what you say can have a very strong influence on your kid. That’s great when you encourage him, but not so great when you inadvertently hurt his self-esteem. Here are nine things to avoid saying:

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  • DON’T SAY: “Mummy won’t love you if you keep doing that.”
    2 / 10 DON’T SAY: “Mummy won’t love you if you keep doing that.”

    WHY NOT Your love for your child should not be conditional – and if he thinks it is, he’ll become even more unsettled. A kid’s self-esteem drops quickly if he thinks there is a real possibility that his parents’ love for him can be turned off so easily.

    TRY THIS INSTEAD “I love you very much but I am annoyed with you for doing that.”

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  • DON’T SAY: “What’s that you’ve drawn?”
    3 / 10 DON’T SAY: “What’s that you’ve drawn?”

    WHY NOT You think he’ll be happy with your attention and interest, but when your preschooler has been creative, he just assumes that you know what his painting or drawing represents. The moment you suggest that his work is unrecognisable, his self-confidence dips.

    TRY THIS INSTEAD “That’s a very interesting picture. Tell me about it.”

    Related: How to build self-esteem in your child

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  • DON’T SAY: “Why are you so stupid?!”
    4 / 10 DON’T SAY: “Why are you so stupid?!”

    WHY NOT That’s a criticism of your child generally, not just a criticism of his behaviour. It is severe disapproval of him entirely as an individual, and suggests that you dislike everything about him, not just the misbehaviour that triggered your remark.

    TRY THIS INSTEAD “You are usually so well-behaved, so I’m so surprised you did that.”

    Related: Your child lied: Here’s what to do next

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  • DON’T SAY: “You didn’t try hard enough.”
    5 / 10 DON’T SAY: “You didn’t try hard enough.”

    WHY NOT You are disappointed with his poor performance in the latest worksheet; you expected him to do better because you know he is a clever child. But maybe he did try hard and that, for example, he was just too anxious on that day.

    TRY THIS INSTEAD “Let’s look at your study plan the next time you have a test.”

    Related: 10 signs that you’re too hard on your child

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  • DON’T SAY: “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”
    6 / 10 DON’T SAY: “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

    WHY NOT Unfavourable sibling comparisons are always divisive. Instead of encouraging your child to improve, the comparison with his sister is more likely to build his resentment towards her without actually changing his behaviour at all.

    TRY THIS INSTEAD “You are a wonderful boy and I know you are capable of achieving much more.”

    Related: 10 ways fathers can build a stronger bond with their daughters

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  • DON’T SAY: “Your clothes are always so dirty and untidy.”
    7 / 10 DON’T SAY: “Your clothes are always so dirty and untidy.”

    WHY NOT Physical appearance is an important part of your kid’s self-esteem. Any negative comment about his looks can dent his confidence, even if the comment is totally justified. He likes to think that he has a good appearance.

    TRY THIS INSTEAD “I’d like to help you keep your clothes clean and tidy.”

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  • DON’T SAY: “You gave up so easily.”
    8 / 10 DON’T SAY: “You gave up so easily.”

    WHY NOT As far as your kid is probably concerned, he had exhausted all the options before he decided he couldn’t get any further with the puzzle. He only stopped when he was sure he had run out of ideas to solve it.

    TRY THIS INSTEAD “Let’s see if we can find another way to do this.”

    Related: 8 preschool problems you should never ignore

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  • DON’T SAY: “How come you don’t have many friends?”
    9 / 10 DON’T SAY: “How come you don’t have many friends?”

    WHY NOT Some children prefer to have a few close friends rather than lots of superficial friendships, so your kid may be very content with a small number of good friends. Your comment suggests that there is something wrong with him.

    TRY THIS INSTEAD “I’m glad that you have good friends to play with.”

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  • DON’T SAY: “You’re not very good at that.”
    10 / 10 DON’T SAY: “You’re not very good at that.”

     

    WHY NOT A kid’s self-esteem plummets if he thinks that he is inadequate. That’s why it is better to encourage him to develop his skills and abilities than it is to highlight his weaknesses. A positive approach is usually more effective.

    TRY THIS INSTEAD “If you practise, you’ll get even better.”

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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