What should you never have said

Ban messages: What parents should never say

"Well, don't feel like that!""It won't work anyway!", "Take an example from your brother!" - Parents keep slipping out such statements. But language can be very hurtful to children. Therefore, some sentences in family communication should be taboo.

According to the language expert Sybille Krämer, words can be just as hurtful as physical violence. "Linguistic injuries occur wherever feelings or unclear power relations are involved," says Krämer, philosopher with a focus on language and media at the Free University (FU) Berlin (retired). They are an everyday problem in many relationships.

Frustration and devaluation

There are different variants of the hurtful words: comparisons that devalue a child or direct attacks: "Take a look at your brother's good report card," says you have a bad report card, you are a failure in comparison. Sentences like "Man, how can you be so dumbfounded" and "That was typical again" directly devalue the child and frustrate them, they give them no chance to prove themselves, they are generalized and are not situation-related. "Words do not cause physical harm to the other person, but they can be used as a linguistic knife."

Banish these sentences:

  • "Then I don't love you anymore!"
  • "I told you that right away."
  • "It's your own fault!"
  • "You can't do that anyway"
  • "I do not want to see you!"
  • "I knew right away that you couldn't do that!"
  • "You will never become anything!"
  • "I do not understand you!"

Ban messages for life

If such sentences keep recurring, they can act like a curse, like a prophecy that fulfills itself. The psychotherapist Sabine Unger coined the term "ban message". Such a situation can be discouraging and deprived of self-confidence. Children also later blame themselves for failures. Or shy away from similar situations in order not to fail in the first place. Ban messages are motivational killers: Children are slowed down from reaching their full potential.

Such a spellbound child will not even make an effort if the result is already certain. "Linguistically, I've always been a nut," is the reason for the messed up English work. The darned thing about words is: They can hurt, but you can't see their scars, the effect slowly builds up and can become a life-long burden. Even if adults have refuted the statement as a false claim through their success in life, the ban remains. Especially when the message also contains the word "guilt", the little ones are burdened with a burden.

Parents are always right?

Young children believe their parents what they say. It matters to them because parents explain the world. So when they verbally belittle the children, they are telling the truth. "You will never become anything, just look at yourself!", "You inherited the fact that you are a nut in math from mom" and "Dad's big nose" - which can hurt two people at the same time. Of course, nice, positive generalizations are also established, but unfortunately they are less common. Example: "You got the nice dimples from mom."

"Always" and "never" with a powerful effect

Small words sometimes have a big impact. "You never clean your room!" and "Do you have to be told that over and over again?" are standard sentences in the parent vocabulary. So why should a child tidy up or memorize something if their parents don't believe in it anyway? Children also encounter such statements outside of their parents' home: They are referred to as "crybugs" or they are threatened with "Then I am no longer your friend" - with this, for example, kindergarten children hurt their comrades.

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Make up for statements

Most of the time, these messages are used unknowingly or without malicious intent, often even to prevent harm from children ("Let me do this so that you don't hurt yourself."). Sometimes, out of anger or anger, parents slip through phrases on a bad day that they never really wanted to say.

If these exceptions remain, a mentally stable child who otherwise experiences a lot of love and affection can cope with it. An apology can also help or, for older children, an explanation of the situation. But: Explanations and apologies wear out if they are not used sparingly.

How to banish spell messages

  • Check which situations stimulate you to "ban messages".
  • Be positive!
  • Actively take up the situation: "Never tidy your room" becomes: "Come on, let's clean up together, let's see what we can rearrange!" Or from "Typical! You always spill the juice!" will: "Is the juice pack too big for your hands? Come on, let's pour it into a small jug with a handle!"
  • Check family communication: would you speak like this to friends, neighbors, and co-workers? Be specifically polite in the family - test the difference: Less stress, more friendliness!
  • Check the reasons for your messages. Do you transfer your own experiences, hopes and wishes to your child? Would you have wished for a musical child, but have a sporty one? Look for the individual talents of your child!
  • Are there any sentences that annoyed you from your parents and that you still carry around as ballast today?