“You’re just worthless!” or “Why are you so ungrateful after everything I’ve done for you?” Does either of these statements sound familiar? We may have heard them said to some kids, or maybe they were said to some of us, or, heaven forbid, you might have said them in a moment of weakness.
This is an update of an article I posted last year. I felt the topic was worthy of being revisisted.
It always saddens me and even makes me angry when I hear anyone, especially parents, bad-mouthing teenagers as a group. Stereotyping groups of people in our society is generally frowned upon, but we think nothing of stereotyping teenagers as “bad.”
Society usually labels them as rebellious, stubborn, bratty, ungrateful, head-strong, and even worthless, among other dreadful adjectives. And our expectations of them are alarmingly low.
I love teenagers. They are bright, funny, very observant, and they are old enough to be able to do all sorts of useful things, like laundry, preparing their own food, and chopping up the tree that fell in the back yard.
What’s more, they can transport their own luggage through the airport, and even help you with yours; yet they are still young enough to love doing kid activities, like sliding down a huge slide, climbing trees, or going to Disney World and getting excited about a photo op with Goofy.
Admittedly, challenges with our teens do arise, but life is full of challenges. Meeting those challenges, properly handling them, and seeing your teen flourish as a result are the rewards we get to experience when we hit a parenting home run.
Sometimes we as parents, myself absolutely included, contribute to the challenges with our teens without realizing it or really intending to do so. Negativity creeps in. It just happens. Negative speech and lack of constructive communication are frequently the culprits that steal the joy from your home and your relationship.
Be very hesitant about slapping negative labels on your kids, even if you only mean it as a joke. To them, it is no laughing matter.
Here are 6 reasons to steer clear of the negative labels trap.
- Negative labels adversely affect your own mindset
Negative labels not only hurt your kids; they hurt your mindset toward your kids. Any time you utter something negative about teens, yours in particular, your mind is programming itself to think negatively about them and thus is reflected in your demeanor and behavior toward them. A constant stream of negativity will only serve to push your teenager away from you, and the teen becomes more negative in his own thinking, not only about himself, but about you, too.
- Negative labels tell your teens you don’t care about their feelings
So often, parents seem to forget that their kids are human beings with feelings. Putting a negative label on them makes them feel as though you don’t care about their feelings or opinions, and that, in turn, makes them far less likely to care about yours. What a terrible message to send to them! Remember to treat your teens the way you would want to be treated. It’s better to be kind than to be right.
- Their trust in you is destroyed when you bad-mouth them
Nothing will damage a person’s feelings of trust more than being bad-mouthed by someone he or she loves. Avoid the betrayal of belittling or bad-mouthing your teens. They will have plenty of that to deal with from other people at school and out in the world at large. They should always know that Mom and Dad are their biggest fans.
- Negative labels tear down self-confidence
Negative labels can only serve to chip away at a teen’s self-esteem until the way is paved for other issues to take hold. It actually creates a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. If a person hears that she is worthless, then she will begin to believe it, and the confidence in herself to do well in school or other activities tragically erodes away. It will affect the choices she makes in her relationships, as well, which can result in undesirable life circumstances.
As a parent, you owe it to your teen to be a confidence booster, not a self-esteem buster.
- You can adversely influence how other people view your teen
Whether parents like to admit it or not, teens will live up or down to your expectations most of the time. Your outlook certainly determines their outcome. How you treat them and label them even from a very young age determines their views of themselves, and consequently others’ views of them, too. You absolutely have the power to determine how your child is treated by others simply by infusing them with a positive self-image, and that is accomplished through a regular, daily diet of positive words.
- It can be an embarrassment to your teen
Think back to when you were a teenager, and the slightest little thing your parents said or did could serve as a horrible embarrassment to you. Teens are hyper-sensitive to being called out on anything that would draw unwanted attention to them and cause them to be embarrassed in front of their friends. I have known some parents who even took great delight in embarrassing their kids, but this is a very bad thing. It goes back to the trust issue I discussed in item 3, and the Golden Rule of treating others as you want to be treated. Remember, what goes around comes around.
It is vitally important to avoid these parenting pitfalls. Your teen’s future depends so much on the choices you make. One step toward creating that 7 Year Adventure and having awesome, memorable experiences with your teen is to get rid of the negativity.
What lessons have you learned about how to speak to and about your teen? What will you do differently in the future? Share your wisdom in the comment section below. I know other parents would love to hear your thoughts.