For Parents: Harsh Words Can Leave Scars
To help your children become happy, well-adjusted adults, treat them the way you'd like to be treated yourself. Talk nicely. Don't be mean.
Sounds simple, but those are some of the most important things you can do.
It means no shrieking at your 2-year-old when he decorates your bathroom wall with purple magic marker. ("Pretty, Mommy?")
It means no name-calling or sweeping generalizations if your 5-year-old drops a box of detergent so it looks a snowstorm in your basement. ("You're a bad boy, and I'm tired of you always messing things up!")
And it means no shaming, blaming, or threatening, even if your child—or you—are having a really bad day.
A recent Florida State University (FSU) study of 5,614 people found that adults who were verbally abused as children had nearly twice as many symptoms of depression and anxiety as those who did not endure verbal abuse. They were also twice as likely to have had mood or anxiety disorders.
"The old saying about 'sticks and stones' was wrong. Names will forever hurt you," says the study's lead author, FSU psychology professor Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, Ph.D. "Over time, children believe the negative things they hear, and they begin to internalize negative beliefs about themselves."
Parents should avoid yelling, belittling, or otherwise acting in ways that could erode a child's self-image. Dr. Sachs-Ericsson suggests a few ideas:
Catch your child doing something right. Focus on positive behaviors, and convey your support and approval for them.
In case of misbehavior or mistakes, make it clear the behavior is bad, but don't deride or put down your child.
Read books and talk to other parents to learn more effective parenting skills.
Find support for yourself so you can better deal with the stresses of parenthood.
"Being a good parent is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and one of the most important," Dr. Sachs-Ericsson says. "A good childhood can last a lifetime."