Six phrases that can deeply hurt a child

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Some parents’ sentences hurt the child. They are unintentional or clumsy. To avoid them, the adult’s speech must be adapted, particularly towards the youngest.

Parents’ words often exceed their thoughts. The child , with his different outlook and approach, does not hear things the same way and these words are often stressful for him. Instead of creating a game of power and punishment, with a semblance of authority, it is better to listen to the child. In all cases, dialogue is a start to resolving a complicated situation. You have to find the right words to open a discussion and for the child to express what he feels. Here are six examples of negative sentences for a child, based on the advice of Isabelle Filliozat, psychotherapist.


Very often this phrase is the result of a deprived parent. The stress leads him to attack the child  and he postpones his anger. These are extremely violent and nasty words. The risk is to see the child freeze, he loses his muscle tone, his body goes into silence. But, very quickly, his body loosens and the child becomes aggressive. He will attack, not his parent, but one of his brothers and sisters, for example. It’s an extreme stress reaction, an over-the-top behavior.


This is a very difficult exclusion for the child to hear. This sentence is doubly negative, it means “I don’t want to see you when you’re feeling bad”. When the child needs the parent the most, the parent asks him to isolate himself. Stress areas of the brain are activated. The smaller the child, the more he needs the parent to self-regulate. Before the age of 13/14, he is not able to control his emotions, after which he becomes so. We realize that by putting words to our grief, by saying: “I see the tears streaming down your face”, the words weave a self-regulation of emotions.


Since birth, the brain is different at different ages. A child between 2 and 3 years old does not hear the negative. When someone tells him, for example, “don’t go into the house with your boots full of mud!” “, he hears “go back into the house with your boots full of mud! “. He will do this while looking at the parent to be sure that he responds to his request. From the moment we prohibit something, there is the risk for the child of wanting to do it again. The adult feels like they are regaining control. It freezes the child with a feeling of fear and shame but it does not educate him. The cause and effect relationship is not defined. The child will do and repeat the forbidden until the situation of fear and shame is mastered.


When the child seems to be having a tantrum, you have to come back to the object or the real need. The child expresses something. If his request is incessant to watch a cartoon, for example, that’s not what he deeply wants. He actually requires attachment, a hug, to respond to the stress emitted, to calm his brain. Depending on the situation and the child’s character, the answer is to offer him a moment of rest or play time outside.


This is one of the most toxic things you can say to a child. Forcing him to sit puts him in a position of maximum stress, it’s not natural for him. On the contrary, the child needs to run or climb trees for his well-being but also to promote his concentration in class, for example. The movement benefits his attention. The more we force him to do his homework sitting, the more a child will become a victim of stress and difficulties. Everyone has their own desires, some children can stand up to work, by putting a desk at a height. On the other hand, sitting constantly damages the muscles of the back and perineum. The child needs to build muscle to provide body tone and minimize stress. The result is better brain health and emotional regulation.


Very often used, this phrase is a way of making the child bear the responsibility for his parent’s emotional state; he is responsible for it. This is a big stressor for the child. Instead of making him bear this fatigue, we can indicate his mood in a pictorial way, with a magnet on the fridge, for example. A sun for the days when everything is going well, a little cloud for the moments when we feel a little less well and a flash of lightning on the difficult days. The child is naturally empathetic, through contagion he will understand his parents’ feelings and act accordingly.

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