There is no doubt that words have immense power in influencing a child’s emotions and well-being. While parents may be meticulous about their choice of words towards their child at home, they have little to no control over what others say.

How can parents prepare their children for unpleasant encounters, or more importantly, fix verbal damage that has already been inflicted on their child?

Your Parents Aren’t Around So I’ll Have to Teach You a Lesson

If a stranger is disciplining your child, it will erode your child’s ego and confidence. It may be an intimidating experience as strangers tend to be less careful in their choice of words when dealing with younger children who may be misbehaving.

What you can do:

Acknowledge your child’s feelings by discussing the situation with them. Let your child express their emotions; help them by being a patient, listening ear instead of trying to speed the process along. When your child has calmed down, ask them what could they have done better instead - it will help them identify if they had done anything wrong.

If your child was wrongly accused, assure him that the stranger did not understand the full story and had made a mistake. This would help to dissolve any resentment that has accumulated after the incident and teach your child the importance of forgiveness.

I’m Going to Tell Your Mother!

This phrase is highly intimidating and would likely send most children into a panic, creating an unhealthy environment led by fear. In the medium- to long-term, your child may develop anxiety issues and lose the confidence to speak their mind.

In school, students may use this phrase to bully their juniors and peers.

What you can do:

Let your child know that you will listen and love them even if they have misbehaved. The important thing is to ensure that your child learns from their mistakes and moves on.

If your child is being bullied, teaching your child how to react will be useful for future occasions.

Note: A good response to bullies would be simply to ignore them. When bullies are unable to goad their victims into a response, they will eventually tire of the ‘chase’. In more severe situations, a discreet chat with their teachers may also assist in addressing the problem before things escalate.

Don’t Talk to Strangers!

A child may not always be able to identify a dangerous stranger based on their physical appearance. More than just an all-encompassing statement that will ensure safety, this is an acquired skill that parents should equip their children with.

What you can do:

Discuss possible scenarios with them and point out which ones to be wary of, before teaching them what to do.

For example, a stranger may ask your child for his home address or telephone number to deliver a parcel to his parents. You should inform your child that in such situations, it’s better to ignore the person and walk away instead of potentially divulging valuable personal information.

Discover the neighbourhood with your child so that they can easily reroute their journey if they encounter a suspicious person. Introduce them to avenues where they can seek help, such as the location of police stations, public phones, and trusted neighbours.

Who Do Your Parents Prefer?

This phrase may plant distrust and doubt in your child, especially if they hear it repeatedly. It may also lead to sibling jealousy and that is something that should be avoided.

What you can do:

Be conscious of any bias you may have and actively reduce it as much as possible. A good way to do this is to talk to your children about the different ways you express love and why you may have to devote more attention to another sibling.

For example, toddlers naturally need more attention from parents as they are still not fully independent. Get your child to be involved in providing care for their siblings as well, so that they understand the skewed levels of attention.

Comparing a Child Unfavourably with One of Their Peers.

When your child hears a comparison that indirectly criticises their shortcomings, it may cultivate feelings of inferiority and lower their confidence level over time. Your child is likely to get frustrated when they are compared to their friends as well.

What you can do:

Acknowledge that each child is unique. Encourage your child to focus more on what they are good at, and remind them to be open to pick up good habits from their friends. Allow them to build on their strengths, such as buying them canvases and brushes if they show artistic leanings, or sign them up for a guitar class if they are musically inclined.

You can also take this as an opportunity to understand potential sibling jealousy issues that may be present, which will enable you to take further reparative action.

Parents ultimately have a strong influence on their children’s emotions and should take advantage of opportunities to help them grow and learn. A good general rule would be to discipline and raise your child through love, instead of fear.

While controlling your child’s exposure to the above statements may not be possible, managing their reactions and encouraging positive conversation will reduce anxiety and contribute to your child’s overall development.


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