10 Bad Parenting Words You Should Never Call Your Children

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Words have the power to wound or lift our hearts. This isn’t new news. Of course, the challenge is when you are small and new to the world — the words you hear help shape your self-esteem and ultimately, worldview.

Especially when it's your parents saying it to you, or about themselves. The way we talk about ourselves impacts our children just as much as how we talk about them. We are their first examples in this world, we are their first loves and their first role models. Everything we do shapes them.

If they hear you talking badly about yourself, they will think it's okay for them to talk badly about themselves. To not think their bodies are beautiful, or that just because their noses look different than other kids their age, doesn't mean they're any less special. 

Since I specialize in helping highly sensitive children thrive, oftentimes I spend time guiding children to “let go” of the words they’ve been called, from "brat" to "bonehead."

Said differently, we flip the script. I’ve helped a young boy, Tommy, begin to see himself as cautious and careful, instead of believing "You are a wimp." These are positive traits that were initially slammed into him as negative. You have to take the bad things people say about you, and believe the opposite, because only you get to decide how you feel about yourself.  

Of course, we are all a work in progress, and we make mistakes. That’s okay. We might still get sad about the things people say about us, but it takes them to truly know ourselves, and that's okay too. The point is to be a bit more mindful about the words that we let slip off our tongues into our children’s hearts.

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To help with that, I have included the top 10 worst parenting words (without regard to curses) that have slipped into everyday conversation that I would love to see evaporate.

They are:

1. Crybaby

2. Picky (fussy)

3. Wimpy

4. Whiny

5. Punk

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6. Problem Child

7. Hypersensitive

8. Drama Queen

9. Defiant

10. Brat

Every single one of these words has a positive counterpart. Whether it’s changing “picky” to “discerning” or “selective,” the point is that when we 100 percent decide to frame things in a more optimistic light, we can reduce the likelihood of low self-esteem flourishing. Because frankly, children build their worlds with your words.

Shakespeare probably put it best when he said: “The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are heaven’s lieutenants.”

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Maureen Healy is an award-winning author, popular speaker, and leader in how to help highly sensitive children thrive. Follow her on Twitter.

This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.