Adolescence is a time of independence. It’s a time when your teenager breaks free of her childhood and may begin to resist your influence in her life. Regardless of the behavior she is currently displaying, your daughter needs your support, encouragement and guidance.
According to Psychology Today, parents influence their teens through instruction, by example, through persuasion, by motivation and by self-disclosure. Even though the teenage years can be frustrating, it’s important for you, as a parent, to always think carefully before you speak to your daughter. While you may think she’s not listening, she is, and certain words can be more damaging to her mental health than you’d ever imagine.
Damaging Words to Avoid When Speaking to Your Daughter
The words you say are more powerful than you know and can have lasting consequences.
Words of Comparison
“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
Every person is different, and your children are no exception. While one may seem like an angel and the other seem like the opposite, avoid comparing the two. Address each of their issues separately. Comparisons can cut deeply.
Words of Judgement
There’s a good chance you aren’t going to like some of the decisions your daughter makes. She may be falling to peer pressure or having a hard time asserting herself. Maybe her grades are falling or she is isolating.
Harsh words of judgement push your daughter away and can have long term damaging effects. “You’re just not the girl you used to be.” “What a rebellious, unappreciative person you’ve turned into.” These types of sentences should never be used. If you see something you don’t like, focus on the thing, instead of labeling the person to avoid shutting down the conversation before it even begins.
“As soon as you turn 18, you’re out of this house.”
You may not mean it. It may have simply been something said out of anger. However, she’ll remember it, and the idle threat will change her behavior and thoughts toward you.
“I hate you.” “I never wanted you.”
We think we’ll never be pushed to the point of saying such things, but often, out of our own pain, we lash out at our children in the most hurtful ways. If you find yourself wanting to say things like this, or already saying them, contact a family therapist. Your entire family is likely in need of healing.
Be careful about what you say about others, especially in the presence of your teen. This can not only have long-term effects on how she treats others in the future, but can warp her sense of respect toward the individual you’re talking about.
No relationship works if one person or both are being deceitful. Lies have a way of coming out eventually, so tell the truth now. It may be painful and hard, but worth it in the end.
“Do you really think you need that piece of cake?”
Teenagers are self-conscious and many have issues with self-esteem. Don’t add to their issues by saying the wrong thing. If you think weight gain, grades or anything else related to their looks, abilities or social standing is a problem, talk to a professional to see how to broach the issue with them.
You’re not perfect, and you may, as a parent, slip up occasionally and say the wrong thing. However, you need to be willing to own the fact that you have made a mistake and take steps to fix it. At our therapeutic boarding school, our therapists work with both students and their parents weekly to help address some of these common mistakes and alter future conversations for the better.