In parenthood, parents may find themselves struggling to find the right words to convey their thoughts and feelings. At times, the tone and choice of words may affect the intended communication, causing a negative development in a child’s growth or relationship with parents.

Parenting can be an extremely challenging and daunting job. Communication with their child is further complicated by the fear of damaging the child’s neurobiological wellbeing and concomitant need to protect one’s offspring. As a result, many parents may find themselves being pre-occupied over the minute details of their parenting skills, while trying to care for a child’s basic needs.

There are various factors impact communicating to our children. These can include:

  • Child’s abilities to understand language
  • Child’s ability to reason and process the information being shared
  • Parent’s ability to communicate information succinctly.

Communication is a two-way street, where what is said may not always be understood in the way that was intended, which also comprises of non-verbal components. All of these are contributing factors that makes it a rather challenging process.

Parents ought to know that the way they interact with their child, even from when they are just a baby, is likely to have an impact on the way the child interacts with others in the world. Children do learn through modelling the behaviors of key role models in their lives.

Possible effects on children who hear mentally/psychologically damaging comments regularly

Verbal abuse, in which the parent speaks disrespectfully to the child or speaks damaging comments, takes on a personal toll since the child may rely on the parent for his very sense of self. This would impact their self-concept, self-esteem and view of the world.

Over time, this can lead to emotional problems (i.e. depression), externalizing problems (i.e. anger and related outbursts) and even impact the way the child interacts with others as s/he matures and develops his or her own relationships.

When words can affect a child’s emotional state

Dr Sanveen Kang, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Thomson Paediatric Centre said, “Whilst it is possible to say things which may negatively impact your child’s opinion of themselves and the world around them, it is important to first understand what we mean by damaging. The second is to understand that “damage” often occurs over time, unless it is the case of abuse. One would need to reinforce the negative and unhelpful comments over a period of time in addition to the child experiencing the consequences of these statements if they were to become assumptions by which the child leads his or her life. The third would be to understand that that all children are individuals who cope differently with scenarios.”

Therefore, it is highly probable that parents may at some points say things that hurt their child and these comments can at times contribute to their development of self-concept. However, it is often not the case that a parent is going to say one thing that is going to scar the children neurobiologically.

Continue reading on the next page for tips...