As parents, we cherish the moments of laughter, joy, and connection with our children. But amidst the sweetness, there are inevitably moments that test our patience and resilience. Moments when our children’s words pierce through our hearts like tiny arrows, leaving us bewildered and hurt (the moments when your child says hurtful things to you).
I vividly remember one such moment when my own child uttered words that felt like a slap in the face. “When your child says hurtful things to you,” I thought, “how do you maintain your composure? How do you navigate the pain while nurturing the bond between parent and child?”
I invite you to explore these questions with me in this blog post. Together, we’ll delve into the complexities of parenting through challenging moments, particularly when faced with hurtful words from our beloved children. From understanding the underlying reasons behind such behavior to practical strategies for maintaining calm and connection, let’s embark on this journey of empathy, growth, and healing.
Join me as we navigate the challenging terrain of parenting with grace and compassion. When your child says hurtful things to you, it’s not just about weathering the storm but emerging more robust and connected on the other side.
Why do children say hurtful things to parents?
Children may say hurtful things for various reasons, and understanding these can help parents respond effectively. Here are some common reasons why children might say nasty things:
Their Emotional Intelligence is still developing:
Children may lack the emotional maturity and communication skills to express their feelings constructively. Some children might be unable to identify the underlying emotions for such a behavior. They might use hurtful words to release pent-up emotions such as frustration, anger, or sadness. They would have observed other adults or peers using hurtful language when they were in an angry mood and, hence, imitating them.
Some children tend to seek attention from elders with this behavior:
Sometimes, children may say hurtful things to get attention from their parents or caregivers, especially if they feel neglected or overlooked. They might be expressing their fears and anxieties in this manner. It might be a sign of deeper emotional or psychological issues such as low self-esteem or depression. Parents need to consider the context of their child’s behavior and seek professional help if they have concerns about their child’s mental health.
Some children tend to test the Boundaries:
Children constantly learn about the world around them, and testing boundaries is a natural part of their development. Saying hurtful things can be a way for children to test how their words impact others and what consequences they might face. They may start to assert their independence by challenging authority figures, including their parents. Saying hurtful things can be a way for them to maintain their autonomy and push back against perceived restrictions or rules.
Children may use hurtful words to assert power or control when they feel powerless or out of control. This can be particularly true if they are experiencing stress or conflict in other areas of their lives.
By understanding the underlying reasons for their child’s behavior, parents can respond with empathy and address the root cause of the hurtful words rather than simply reacting to the surface behavior.
Why, as parents, should you keep your cool when kids use mean words?
When you are in the midst of a heated argument with your child, they suddenly unleash a barrage of hurtful words that cut deep. It’s as if time stands still, and you’re left grappling with a whirlwind of emotions—anger, sadness, and perhaps even a tinge of disbelief. When your child says hurtful things to you,” you wonder, “How do you keep your cool? How do you respond in a way that preserves the bond between parent and child?”
Like mine said the other day, he wanted a new mommy instead of me and just slammed the door. Believe it or not, it pierced my heart to hear my darling baby say that, and my mom’s guilt was ready to pounce on me and pull me down the emotional drain. Yet, amidst all that turmoil, I could save my sanity and realize the profound significance of maintaining my own composure and becoming an anchor, which my child really wanted me to be.
So, keeping your cool when your child says hurtful things is more than just a parenting mantra—it’s a transformative act of love and understanding. By maintaining your calm exterior, you are paving the way for deeper connections and mutual respect and becoming a positive role model for your child.
??Your ability to remain calm teaches your child important lessons about emotional regulation. It shows them that it’s possible to acknowledge and manage intense emotions without resorting to hurtful behavior.
??Responding calmly to your child’s hurtful words helps to build trust and strengthen your relationship. It shows your child that you are a safe and supportive presence, even when they are struggling with difficult emotions.
??Reacting calmly to hurtful words reinforces the message that respectful communication is important in your family. It sets clear expectations for how family members should treat each other, even when emotions run high.
??Reacting with anger or frustration can turn the interaction into a power struggle between you and your child. By staying calm, you can defuse the tension and focus on resolving the issue collaboratively.
??Lastly, by staying calm in the face of hurtful words, you demonstrate to your child how to manage difficult emotions and communicate effectively. That way, you are role-modeling the behavior that you want your child to develop.
Overall, keeping your cool when your child says hurtful things allows you to respond in a way that promotes trust, understanding, empathy, and positive communication within your family.
Tips on how to react when your child says hurtful things:
When a child says hurtful things to their parents, it can be challenging for both the parent and the child. Reacting emotionally to your child’s words can escalate the situation and make it harder to address constructively. Keeping your cool allows you to maintain perspective and respond in a way that addresses the underlying issues behind their hurtful words.
Here are some suggestions for how parents can react in such situations:
1. It’s not personal, so don’t lose your cool:
Parents must stay calm and composed, even if they feel hurt by what their child said. Reacting angrily or defensively can escalate the situation and make it harder to address constructively.
I understand how you will feel when you hear those hurtful words from your child, but please do remember that your child doesn’t want to hurt you or disrespect you. They are just undergoing a huge emotional storm and lashing out. Their immature brain sends the wrong signals, resulting in this rude behavior.
2. Model Respectful Behavior:
It’s also easier for you to get carried away in that heated moment and throw back the mean words. But please remember that your child learns a lot by observation, and how you behave in this heated moment will become your child’s life lesson. So ensure you’re modeling respectful communication and behavior in your interactions with them and others, even during arguments or otherwise.
3. Validate and understand their Feelings:
Acknowledge your child’s feelings, even if you disagree with what they’ve said. Let them know that it’s okay to feel angry or upset, but there is a way to share their emotions respectfully without hurting the other person.
We have to remember that when a child is dysregulated, their thinking brain tends to get switched off. So that’s not the time to reason with them or give them punishments. By doing so, we will only complicate the situation by bringing another emotion, shame, into the already stressful situation.
Instead, we need to stay closer to the child and try to focus on the child’s inner needs rather than their delivery of the message. Be there to support them and empathize with them. At the same time, please start emphasizing that their choice of words has hurt you.
4. Encourage Open Communication:
After the heat of the moment has subsided, have a casual but open discussion with your child about why they said what they did. Try to understand the underlying reasons for their behavior, whether it’s frustration, anger, or something else.
Make it clear that hurtful language is not acceptable and discuss the consequences of using it. Please help your child understand the impact of their words on others. Ask them how they would feel if you or someone else used the exact same words with them. Emphasize not to hurt anyone’s feelings; respectful communication must be practiced constantly.
5. Emphasize your love towards your child:
All this immature behavior from your child only indicates their inner need for warmth and attention. We might be so busy with the day-to-day work that we lose focus on the kids, and they need us. They resort to this attention-seeking behavior since they cannot get our attention. So that’s why it’s all the more critical for the parents to spend quality time with the kids so that they feel confident about our presence in their lives.
It doesn’t mean you tell your child “you love them” whenever they use hurtful words towards you. You can tell them later when they get settled down. But it is crucial to make them understand that you are there for them and love them even though their words hurt you.
Remember that addressing hurtful behavior takes time and patience. Be consistent in your approach and focus on fostering a positive and respectful relationship with your child.
Tips to proactively stop this hurtful behavior by kids
Proactively addressing and preventing the use of hurtful words towards parents involves creating a supportive and respectful environment. Here are some tips for parents:
a. Teach Emotional Regulation:
Help your child identify and label his or her emotions, and teach him or her healthy ways to cope with and express his or her feelings. Encourage them to take deep breaths, count to ten, or use calming techniques when they’re upset.
b. Provide Alternative Ways to Express Feelings:
Teach your child alternative ways to express their emotions without using hurtful words. Encourage them to use “I” statements to express their feelings and needs assertively.
c. Encourage Empathy:
Foster empathy by helping your child understand how their words and actions can affect others. Encourage them to consider how they would feel if someone said the same hurtful things to them.
d. Read books about Feelings and Emotions:
Teach them about different emotions and feelings by reading age-appropriate books about feelings and emotions with kids. There are a variety of books available both online and in printed format that teach the kids how to handle different emotions without being too preachy. There are tons of movies and shows available that can be used to discuss different emotions. My child personally likes Ben and Holly and Sesame Street in this regard.
e. Create a Safe Space for Communication:
Foster an open and supportive environment where your child feels comfortable expressing his or her thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism.
f. Seek Professional Help if Needed:
If your child’s behavior persists despite your efforts, or if you’re struggling to address it on your own, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor who specializes in child psychology.
By proactively addressing these factors, parents can create a supportive environment that promotes respectful communication and reduces the likelihood of children using hurtful words toward their parents.
In the rollercoaster journey of parenthood, navigating through moments when your child says hurtful things to you can feel like traversing uncharted territory. Yet, amidst the challenges lie opportunities for growth, understanding, and deeper connection.
Remember, parenting is a journey filled with highs and lows, triumphs and challenges. But through it all, the bond between parent and child remains a resilient thread that withstands the test of time. So, when your child says hurtful things to you, remember that you have the power to respond with grace, understanding, and unwavering love.
Let’s continue to nurture the bonds that unite us, weathering the storms with compassion and strength. Because in the end, it’s not just about weathering the storm—it’s about emerging stronger, more connected, and more resilient than ever before.
Suhasini, IP, is the Author of the book “Practical Tips for Kids Mental Health.” As a certified kids and parents life coach, she helps/guides you toward a happy family life for your kids. She firmly believes that “Emotionally Happy Kids of today are the Mentally Strong and Happy Citizens of tomorrow.” Let’s make the world a happy and beautiful place for our kids to thrive.