Saturday, October 31, 2015

Are you emotionally harming your child? “No, not me,” comes the inevitable answer.

We all say it, but the truth remains that there are things we all do that are emotionally harmful to our children, and we often don’t even realize it! Of course, there is no handbook that tells you the do’s and don’ts of being the perfect parent and we are bound to make some mistakes. However, what is even more important is learning the things that we do that can be potentially harmful and reducing them in order to further the emotional, physical and mental health of our children. Here are 5 of the most common emotionally harmful things parents do to their children without realizing it.

01: Labelling Your Child..

On the better side of intentions, you may be labeling your child as something positive, like an ‘angel’ or the ‘perfect child’, and while these labels are of course far from being overtly negative, they can actually cause emotional damage in the long run. How so? One word: expectation. Sure, you obviously don’t expect them to be ‘the perfect child’ and understand full-well that the term used is an obvious over exaggeration and simple expression of your affection, but for your child it can become a burdensome  expectation. The more often it is used, the more deeply it inserts itself, and your little one could very well spend their lives trying to live up to it– and experiencing a world of disappointment and shame as a result. While you may believe you’re providing positive encouragement, you could be doing quite the opposite, because labels are limiting. Even if you describe your children as ‘the athletic one’, or ‘the funny one’, it begins to set limits on what they believe they can be. They, in their minds, have now been categorized. Instead, try to embrace their efforts and internal qualities as opposed to labeling them into being something.

02: Comparison..

You’ve said it before: “Why can’t you just do your homework quickly, like your brother?” or “I never have to ask your sister to clean up her toys.” These seem like innocent comments or examples of ‘reverse psychology’, but they can actually be emotionally harmful to your child, as they encourage a fractured, competitive world-view and cause a feeling of inferiority. This can also severely harm the sibling relationship and allow for resentment to be formed. You never want one child to feel higher than the other, or worse, lower than the rest, and comparing your child to other children can encourage bad feelings while also causing more household arguments and contention. Instead, try to eliminate comparative phrases such as “just like” from your sentences.

03: Being Disappointed..

Being disappointed in something your child did or didn’t do is completely normal. However, voicing that opinion can actually be more detrimental to your child and may even encourage the very behavior that you’re disappointed with. While it is easy for us parents to believe that vocalizing our disappointment is something that will encourage them to improve, it actually encourages negative feelings within themselves and enhances the pressure they already feel to be ‘good enough’. Instead, try to discuss with your child what they can do to improve and avoid expressing your disappointment.

04: Providing Constructive Criticism..

This is an emotionally harmful thing many parents do to children that we also have a hard time not doing. Why? Because constructive criticism is something inevitable in life, and at one point, your child is going to have to learn how to take it. However, by providing constructive criticism as a parent to your child, you are actually making them, again, feel not good enough — like their efforts (very often their best) simply aren’t sufficient. There are many positive ways that you can still provide constructive criticism without having your child feel picked apart. Try to motivate your child to improve by asking what they think can be different.

05: Showing Your Frustration..

Frustration, of course, goes hand in hand with parenthood. You are bound to feel frustration and it is unfortunately extremely easy to take out those feelings out on your children, even if they have nothing to do with them. However, showing your frustration and taking it out on your children can be emotionally harmful and put a dent in the bond you have. You never want your child to see that you’ve had a bad day, causing the feeling in them that they need to walk on eggshells around you for the rest of the day, fearing a possible outburst. Instead, give yourself a ‘parent time out’. Cool off. Sort out where your frustrations lie, and leave them at the door.

Now, don’t get too down on yourself. These are 5 emotionally harmful things all parents do to their children, often without even realizing it. Your child is not forever deemed to be emotionally damaged because of these things. However, you certainly want to bring a little mindfulness to your day to day activities and begin addressing whichever problem areas may be particular to you. Working on yourself is one of the best ways to inadvertently improve the emotional wellbeing of your child as well.

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