Be Careful What You Say To Your Kids

Growing up, I was the elder of two kids with strict parents. Right from the start, I was told that I was the smart, responsible one and that I was also the ‘peace-maker’ so it was my job to keep everyone happy. Being an empath didn’t help so the co-dependence grew at an astonishing speed and depth. All of them confided in me, including my parents which is a whole other conversation for another time because what I knew at a young age was not appropriate, but that’s another post for another day.

I grew up believing that innately I was a peace-keeper and that my happiness depended on making sure everyone else in the home was happy as well. Then I could relax until the next crisis. I never put my happiness ahead of theirs because that was not my given role. You can see how dysfunctional it was, right?

My brother wasn’t held to the high standards that I was as a child. The burden of perfection was heaped on my shoulders and not his. He was given carte blanche to do as he pleased. Whether that was because he was a boy or younger, I’ll never know. But it caused a huge wedge between us. I saw it as he got away with everything while I was held to a higher standard. He saw it as I was the star of the family and he was nothing. It’s interesting how we saw our childhoods play out in different ways.

While my parents weren’t mean, they weren’t able to see what they said and did made such a difference in our lives. It’s taken years for my brother and me to unravel the tangled dysfunction and to be friendly again. When we walk down memory lane, it’s fascinating how our viewpoints are so different when we talk about situations and events that happened.

My point is that we have to be really careful in what we say to our kids. My kids and I have talked at length about this subject because even though I was a product of this type of dysfunction, and never intended to repeat it, to a certain extent they were labeled too. One was the really athletic and the other the brainy. And while those are traits of the kids, it was never meant to limit their abilities. It was meant as complimentary, but it pegged them in a box that was never meant to be. Am I making sense here? Do you have similar stories with your childhood and siblings?

Because as parents, what you say to your kids when they’re little makes a huge difference in the self-worth, discovery and expansion of your kids’ minds, bodies and abilities. If you tell them that they’re not athletic or brainy, they believe you and overtime that evolves into part of their sense of self. Even if it’s said in a complimentary way.

A child’s psyche is fragile. We have to feed them encouragement and give them chances to grow in limitless ways. That’s NOT to say that we allow them that feeling of entitlement though! That’s a no-no. Instead, teach them to try, to experience, to pick themselves up when they fall, to reach out for help when needed and to help others along the way. To try their best. To find and enjoy hobbies that enrich their lives. To pursue their dreams. To care and to hold dear relationships with family and friends. To connect with people and the world around them. To do good and be kind. To value each and every life. To enjoy their lives. To connect with nature. Etc., etc., etc.

While my kids affirmed that I didn’t do too badly and they aren’t horrifically scarred by their childhood (well, with the exception of the divorce), I hold guilt as a divorced Mom. And yet, I feel grateful that I am the primary parent so that we can talk about these subjects. But it’s hard for them because their dad isn’t really in their lives. And it’s sometimes hard for me when they tell me things about this topic because it makes me feel badly.

I know my parents never intended the hurt that happened. I know that the ex and I never did either. We did the best parenting we could, with what we knew, under the circumstances. I think that’s what we all do when we’re parents. We try to not repeat what was done to us in order to make sure our kids don’t scar in the same way we did.

How about you? What are your thoughts?

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14 Responses to Be Careful What You Say To Your Kids

  1. scr4pl80 says:

    I thought my childhood was wonderful. I had loving parents and while I fought with my younger sister (she is 5 years younger than I), truthfully I never really paid attention to her much. In fact, as I look back it is hard for me to even remember her being there – Like i know I walked home from school every day and she went to the same school I did but I don’t remember her walking home with me? I only came to find out recently that she thinks she had a terrible childhood and that I was mean to her. I also realized a few years ago that some of the things I said to my kids were harmful to them but we were dealing with their dad’s alcohol problem and I thought I was doing the right thing. I agree with you. Great post.


    • janieleeds says:

      Thanks Janet. I think it’s interesting how we remember things differently even though we grew up in the same household. I just keep trying to remember we are all doing the best we can…and to make peace with it all. I’m glad you had a wonderful childhood! I did too for the most part…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LA says:

    We parent the best we can, and we make mistakes no matter how hard we try. However, no one likes to admit they’ve made mistakes, so then they won’t course correct. For example I recently had a conversation with someone aboit their child. The parent was extolling all the things the child was and wasn’t doing and then looked to me for advice. It’s a fine line when you give advice because from an outsider perspective you see the mistakes they’re making…I mean…I know what the parent is doing wrong…so when I sort of hedge around what to do, they say…oh…I’m already doing that…even though you know they’re not…ok…I’m not making any sense, but it comes down to we personally don’t like admitting we may be wrong about something. It doesn’t work no matter what the scenario

    Liked by 1 person

    • janieleeds says:

      I agree LA! It is a fine line when giving advice, especially when you can see the big picture as an observer. We have to be open to listening to the advice given in a kind way and be willing to change in order for it to work. Good for you in trying to help!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ainsobriety says:

    I try hard to be honest and transparent with my kids.
    I got sober 7 years ago. My youngest still has stress from the drinking days, and I was mainly a weekend expensive wine drinker. I was also depressed and suffering from severe anxiety. All in all I was a fragile person for a few years of her life. It has taken a long time to reassure her I am better. Which I am!
    Funny, my older kid says he doesn’t remember the drinking much. No more than other people.

    My ex is not in their lives. It’s been almost 2 years exactly. Cheating on your wife, getting caught, moving away and then having a baby is not responsible parenting. It is pure selfishness.

    That said, I grew up codependent and was clearly codependent with my ex, who also got sober 7 years ago (we were the fun couple,Lol). I can see I encouraged my eldest to do thing to appease his dad and I regret it. I see I was encouraging codependency in him. My younger kids wouldn’t have any of it. She’s very self aware. She would tell you she’s happier without her dad as they butted heads. She stood up to him. She’s awesome.

    We all discuss these things in our house. I believe that by talking about them the kids see that I am also human and trying my best. I am willing to listen to them and support them

    Overall I’d say my kids have had a good life. We are affluent and I have a good, professional job. They get what they want. They are nice people. We travelled a lot. We had a lot of fun before and after the divorce. They will still need therapy.



    • janieleeds says:

      What an inspiration you are Anne! Congrats on the 7 years sober! That’s awesome!

      I love that you discuss these things in your house. We do the same here which I find helps to heal and puts everything out in the open. While it’s not always pleasant when a kid tells you something about yourself that you had hoped they didn’t remember or pick up on, it is a clearing that allows healing, especially when it is done with love.

      Keep up the great work! And thank you for sharing…big hugs to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. TJ Fox says:

    There were massive disparities between how my parents raised first my older brother and me and then how they handled my younger brother so differently from either of us older kids when he came along 11 years later (Ooops!) My older brother was the brilliant, do no wrong, perfect child. They had expectations for him to an extent, but they were fluid and easily dropped. I held all kinds of responsibilities as the girl in the house. Lots of dishes, cooking, and cleaning, then child care when my younger brother came along (gotta love a built in babysitter). All responsibilities my older brother never had. No matter what I did, though, and it somehow wasn’t enough or what they expected (thought they also never said what exactly that was). Somehow, my baby brother got a weird blend of both treatments, but still vastly different.

    Because of how much of a mess it was growing up, I’ve made huge efforts to ensure that my kids were all treated equally, though I learned it is possible to go too far with that and corrected it, though it makes me angry it took so long to see. I’ve also tried really hard not to shove any of my kids into a box or a label and just let them be, which is so hard sometimes. I know I’m far from perfect. I can only hope that what damage I’ve done (because I’m convinced that pretty much all parents do to some extent) is slight.


    • janieleeds says:

      Thanks for sharing TJ! I think we all do the best we can under the circumstances and our intent is never to harm, only to help, to inspire and to hold accountable our children to keep doing the best we can.
      Interesting how as the ‘girl’ of the family you were the middle child in charge of it all. I’m sorry. But I am sure that it is slight (if at all) knowing how you care for your family and children so much. Big hugs to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TJ Fox says:

        I’ve told my kids how I messed up and that I feel bad that I didn’t see it and apologized to them. They are amazing and understand, so I’m massively grateful to them for it. To this day, my parents refuse to admit to any wrong doing, for anything, and is why we don’t speak anymore.


      • janieleeds says:

        I get it TJ! And I’m sad that your parents couldn’t acknowledge your feelings about your childhood. Like you, I have apologized to my kids too. Their resiliency and their understanding and forgiveness was paramount to our bonding together. And of course, I do the same for my kids so the loving support is there for them too. Because none of us are perfect, nor do I pretend to be. But in taking responsibility for our mistakes, we are showing our humanity and I keep hoping that they will remember this. I am strong enough to own my mistakes, ask for forgiveness and avoid making the same mistakes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TJ Fox says:

        I think that is the biggest difference. The willingness to own our actions and words. Personal responsibility is one of the most important things I teach my kids.


      • janieleeds says:

        I agree with you TJ! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. OmniRunner says:

    Most parents try their best and all parents make mistakes. I tell my self that when ever I go on a guilt trip about my daughters.
    But I did my best and I did better than many.
    When my kids were young I realized that when you’ve made your point it’s time to shut up. As an adult it’s easy to over power a child’s intellect. And a point made once is often more powerful than a point belabored. I use that lesson when talking with adults also!
    Raising kids is the toughest job you’ll ever love.


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