Family Magazine

What You Say Can Affect Your Child’s Self Esteem.

By Barbarajpeters @CouplesAuthor

What you Say Can Affect Your Child’s Self Esteem.

Just the other day, as I was talking with a client about the progress they’re making in his relationship, he voiced another concern.

He told me about a recent conversation he and his wife had engaged in about their 6-year-old son’s behavior.  In a moment of humorous desperation and frustration, he had said, “Maybe we should send him off to some military boarding school to make him behave better.” What they didn’t know was that he was sitting on the stairs in the hall.

The poor kid had heard the whole thing!  And as a 6 year old, he wasn’t very discerning. He couldn’t tell reality from fantasy, and he didn’t know that it was a statement made as a joke. So the little boy internalized it as any little boy would.

He started thinking, “they want to get rid of me, they don’t love me.”

A few days passed and he told his mother that he was having trouble sleeping. He said he was having bad dreams where bears were after him.  This began to concern my client and his spouse, and spilled into our conversation about advice on relationships.

Communication is necessary between parents concerning child rearing issues, of course.  But it’s critical to have boundaries in place! Kids have a way of hearing everything that is said, especially when you least expect it.

While I often write about topics relating to advice on relationships, marriages are definitely affected by how you relate to your children as well.  Communication issues there create tension that will need to be resolved.

When communicating with each other about your children, here are some suggestions to prevent similar mishaps based on misheard information:

Advice on Relationships: How To (Safely) Talk With Your Spouse About Your Kids

  1. Keep it positive and loving.
  2. If there is an important issue to discuss that could be negative in nature, make sure you have that conversation in a place where the child in question cannot hear it.  If you’re relying on your child being in bed or in another room, this can backfire.  Check and double check to make sure you’re not being overheard as the conversation unfolds.
  3. Make sure other siblings do not hear the conversation either. 
  4. Never talk to one sibling about another.
  5. Do not talk to others about your child who might go back to the child and paraphrase your words, often incorrectly.

The things you say shape your child’s perception of the world, feelings about him or herself which can raise or lower self-esteem.

Words have power.  They can leave a scar if internalized incorrectly.

Have you ever been caught in this kind of situation?  If so, here are some steps to resolve it – but you must take them seriously and truly regret having caused distress for your child. 

Advice on Relationships: How to Resolve Miscommunications With Kids

  1. Apologize to the child. 
  2. Reassure him or her that it was not meant to be factual. This may take some thoughtful explaining. 
  3. Engage in follow up behavior to reinforce your words and rebuild your child’s trust in you.

Like we tell children so often, as parents, we must think before letting those words roll off our tongues.  Our kids listen, watch us, and pick up cues from us, even in the times we think they aren’t paying attention at all.

Have you had to apologize to your child for an inadvertent miscommunication with unintended consequences?  

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