There’s Power in the Tongue

By: Barron Boon

Words are powerful and have the ability to influence a child’s emotions and well-being. While you may be careful about your choice of words with your child, others may choose to less meticulous.

What you can do however is to prepare your child for such unpleasant encounters and attempt to minimize the damage that has been inflicted on him/her. Here’s a look at five common but less-appropriate phrases that are sometimes used on children.  

  • Since Your Parents Aren’t Around, I’ll Have To Teach You A Lesson

If strangers use this phrase to discipline your child, it may turn into an intimidating experience and result in eroding your child’s ego and confidence.

What You Can Do:

Find out from you child how he or she feels by discussing the situation with them. Be a listening ear by being patient instead of trying to speed up the process. Once your child has calmed down, ask them what they think could have been said instead – this will also help them realize if they did do anything wrong.

If your child was really wrongly accused, you will need to explain that the stranger misunderstood the situation and had made a mistake. This is an effective way to help your child deal with any resentment that may have accumulated after the incident. It will also teach your child learn the importance of forgiveness.

  • I’m Going To Tell Your Parents

This can be highly intimidating and would probably send most children into a state of panic. Your child may begin to develop anxiety issues and might also lose the confidence to speak his/her mind in the mid or long term.

What You Can Do:

The first thing that you need to do is to show them that you will listen and love them even if though they have misbehaved. Let them know that they ought to learn from their mistakes and move on.

If your child is getting bullied by their peers, you will need to advise him/her on how to react in the future.  A good way of dealing with bullies is usually to ignore them. If your child does not give them any response, they are more likely to shift their focus or stop pursuing them altogether. In cases where bullies are more persistent, a discreet chat with their supervisors will prevent the bullying from escalating.  

  • Don’t Talk To Strangers

Identifying strangers is key when it comes to your child ensuring his/her own safety.

What You Can Do:

Before teaching your child what to do, you need to discuss the possible scenarios with them and point out how they can distinguish the good from the bad.

For example, someone may request for a home address or telephone number from your child on the basis of having to deliver a parcel to his/her parents. In this case, it’s best to advise your child to ignore this person.

Take your child on a walk around your neighbourhood so that they can easily find their way home should they encounter a suspicious character. Introduce him/her to avenues of help such as the police station, trusted neighbours or even heavily populated places like the supermarket.

  • Who Do Your Parents Prefer?

A phrase like this can plant distrust, doubt and jealously in your child if they hear it repeatedly.

What You Can Do:

Avoid using bias statements or questions as much as possible. If there is a need to give more attention to one child, explain to your other child why this is necessary and be sure to continuously express your love for him/her.

A common scenario would be having to devote more time to toddlers who aren’t fully independent yet. Get your child to be involved in caring for their siblings so that they too can understand the skewed level of attention required.

  • Unfavorable Comparison with Their Peers

This could potentially cultivate feelings of inferiority and in some cases indirectly criticize your child’s shortcomings. Your child might also become frustrated if he/she isn’t sure how to deal such phrases.  

What You Can Do:

No two children are the same and acknowledge that your child is unique. Encourage them to work on what they are good at and remind them to build on their strengths. Buy them canvases and brushes if they’re artistically inclined or sign them up for guitar classes if they express interest in music.

This is also an opportune time to address sibling jealously issues which will allow you to take further reparative action.

You as a parent are equipped with immense power to influence your child’s emotions and should take advantage of the opportunity to grow and learn. Remember to discipline your child with love, instead of fear.

While controlling exposure to statements from other people is not possible, teaching your child to manage their reactions by encouraging positive communication will allow them to better cope with tricky situations.