Sticks and Stones
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Have you ever heard of that saying when you were a kid? Do you remember who told you this saying? Well I think it’s a big fat lie. Why?
I would like you to think back to your childhood. Can you remember a time, a place and a situation that you were bullied by a peer, friend or family member? Thinking back and remembering this event, how does that make you feel now? Do you feel angry, upset or sad? What you heard made you feel a certain way and to this day you may still feel those feelings. How many years ago was that?
What you say to your children when you get mad, upset or frustrated can have a lasting effect on your child. What your child hears coming out of your mouth in anger or frustration cannot be taken back.

You are not alone
I know as a parent we all get frustrated by what our child says or does at times. Believe me when I say you are not alone. I remember plenty of times when my child had a meltdown in the grocery store or gave me attitude about cleaning up his room. Why do our kids behave that way? What’s up with the attitude? Why don’t they just listen?
You may take their behavior personally, like it’s a reflection on you. You get upset and you start to react and sometimes just lose it. You yell, threaten, bribe, shame or even worse, turn your back and ignore them. As parents we don’t mean harm to our children, we just want them to listen to us.
Please do not take it personally, your child is just trying to get their needs met and they may not be able to express themselves in an appropriate way yet. This is where our patience and understanding has to come into play.

5 Ugly Words
There are 5 words that can sabotage your kid’s self-esteem and you may not even know it. If these words are said by you over and over again because you can’t connect with your child you may be driving your child away from you or worse you could be creating a belief within your child that could lead to a negative self image.
Let me give you an example:
Let’s say your child is clumsy and spills the milk across the dining room table and you say: What’s wrong with you? You are so clumsy.
Scenario two: your child falls on the playground and he rips his new pair of jeans, you say: What’s wrong with you? This is the 2nd pair of jeans you ripped this week?
Scenario three: You feel your child is ready to tie his shoe laces and you are teaching him the steps. It’s been 2 weeks and he still has trouble. You say: What’s wrong with you, can’t you follow simple directions?
Can you guess what those 5 words are? “What is wrong with you?”

Children want to do the right thing naturally
Children want to please their parents. It’s in their nature as children. They watch you, study you, they learn from you and eventually they will model you. You are all they have, they will model you and they will want your praise.
When you say “What’s wrong with you” over and over, your child can begin to develop a belief that something is truly wrong with them. These words are hurting your child’s self-confidence and your child’s self-esteem. You love your child no doubt and you don’t mean to hurt them. However, the child may begin to say to themselves: What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? Why did I do that? I am clumsy. I am stupid. I’ll never please mom/dad.

The downward spiral of self-doubt and limiting beliefs begin to creep into your child’s subconscious. The gremlin is now there that can haunt the decisions they make as they grow up into adulthood.
Creation of Limiting Beliefs

As adults we all have our own gremlins. Where did they come from? How do you handle yours? These gremlins are also called limiting beliefs.
What is a limiting belief? This is a belief about our self and our capability, whether it’s true or not, we believe it.
For example: If your child is not getting a concept or unable to achieve a goal and the child is always asked: What’s wrong with you, why can’t you learn this? Or someone says to the child: You’re wrong again, you always make this mistake. You are so stupid. The child begins to think they are not smart enough. As they grow up and encounter challenges in life they may never try to stretch themselves because they have this voice in their head that they are not smart enough, even though if they would have applied themselves or even tried, they would have achieved success.
Does this resonate with you perhaps? Have you ever had that gremlin say to you: you are not smart enough, you are too old, you are not pretty enough, you are not…..!

So what should you say or what should you do?

Your Saving Grace
The first step is to become aware of why you are becoming so agitated that you lose control and begin to yell at, shame or blame your child.
The second step is to stop and regain your composure and remember you are your child’s teacher, mentor and model. Give yourself some empathy so that you can give your child empathy. Breathe and count to 3 to yourself.

Once you have regained your composure, ask yourself how you can help your child. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child. Instead of saying, “What is wrong with you?” Ask “how can we make this better?” Explore opportunities to come up with a solution. You will be surprised at some of the answers your child comes up with.

Practice this exercise with your child. Within time your child will be asking him/herself how they can solve their problem in a better way or another way, thus becoming self-reliant and at the same time beginning to build his/her self-confidence as they see their successes. In the long run you will be doing yourself and your child a great service.

If you have yelled and blamed your child, you still can undo what you said to your child and begin the process of healing the limiting beliefs. In my Happy Parents Happy Kids I dive into the unraveling of these limiting beliefs. With patience and empathy, communication and connection can be repaired and restored. For more information contact me at

Written by Cindy Marvin

Cindy Marvin

Cindy Marvin is a parenting coach, educator, speaker and founder of Repairenting, LLC. Her mission is to help families reconnect and begin to enjoy their time with one another and Bring Harmony Home. Through her ability to deeply listen without judgment and create a safe environment, Cindy helps families create positive changes in their lives that have dramatic lasting effects for years to come.