When Parents Say Hurtful Things

I know that parents don’t get up in the morning thinking of ways to hurt their kids. But when you use hurtful words like “idiot” or “whiner”, or any other type of ridicule or sarcasm, you’re doing more damage than you can possibly imagine. So what happens when a parent say hurtful things?

These types of verbal attacks cut deep and can scar like knives. They trigger tremendous feelings of worthlessness. An angry or disgusted tone of voice is something that even a 1-year-old finds hurtful, but actual “name-calling” is extremely damaging to toddlers. At around two years of age developmentally, toddlers are very focused on words and are beginning to care a lot about what others think.


Remember, you’re building a long-term relationship. Can you picture a diplomat telling a king, “You’re so stupid!” or “Shut up!”? Diplomats keep a cool head and a respectful tone even when they’re mad because they know that today’s enemy is tomorrow’s friend. So when something your toddler does makes you really upset, skip the yelling and name-calling and instead tell him how his actions made you feel: “You broke my favorite picture frame, and Mommy/Daddy is just really  mad!”

Admitting When You are In The Wrong

I would say that most of the time when a parent ‘loses it’ with their kids and says the things to them that they would NEVER tolerate hearing from someone else, is when they’re tired, and frustrated themselves.   We’ve all been there, done that!  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  We’re all just human and easily make mistakes.  And there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you were wrong and apologizing to your child.  That actually goes a long way in teaching your children how to behave.  And one more thing, fortunately, all the good things you’ve done and said also live long in the minds or your children!

So here are some tips on how to replace hurtful labels that tear your toddler down with descriptions that build him up.


BossyA leader
HyperEnergetic, spirited, passionate
PickyDiscerning knows exactly what he likes
ShyCareful looks before she leaps
SlowpokeThoughtful, deliberate

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