Words impact people’s lives, especially when they’re coming from someone so influential as a parent. While some parents carefully consider how to talk to their kids to preserve their self-esteem, others seem to do the opposite and come up with the most visceral and traumatizing things to tell their children. A user on a popular online forum asks, “What is a phrase that a parent can say to ruin a child’s self-esteem just like that?” People replied with the worst things they’ve heard a parent tell their child.
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1. “Now I Know Why Your Parents Put You Up for Adoption”
One commenter shares a disturbing story about something a mother said to her adopted child when the two were having a playdate. The mom and daughter argued, but her mom went way too far and screamed, “Now I know why your parents put you up for adoption.” The daughter fell silent and ran off in tears. “Never in my life have I heard anything half as cruel,” the user writes.
2. “You’re Out of Here When You Turn Eighteen”
While many loving parents wish they could keep their children young forever, others who may not be suited for parenthood think the opposite. “My parents always knew exactly how long it was until my 18th birthday and would remind me that I’d be on my own when it arrived,” says one commenter.
“It was the sword of Damocles hanging over my head my whole childhood. I knew in my bones that I was not wanted or welcome and that they looked forward to being free of me.”
3. “You Ruined My Life”
“My dad once got super mad at us and wrote a five-page essay about how we ruined his life,” states one forum member. They remember the experience vividly, along with the terrible emotions that come with thinking your existence ruined the life of someone they love.
But they’re not alone. Another respondent writes, “My mother told me almost every day that I was the reason she couldn’t go to college and become a lawyer.”
4. “Why Can’t You Be Normal?”
Kids who don’t fit in get bullied enough at school and online that when the same vitriol comes from their parents, it crushes their self-esteem. When parents tell their kids that they’re weird and should try to act normal, they send a message that something is wrong with their children when they’re just different.
5. “I Never Said That!”
Verbally abusive parents hate when their kids confront them about their hurtful behavior. Many commenters say that after trying to have a calm and honest conversation with their parents about how their actions made the child feel, their parents would gaslight them. Phrases like “I never said that!” or “I didn’t mean it like that” make kids question their own reasoning and reality.
6. “You’re Fine. Stop Making Excuses”
As a kid, I knew I could go to my parents with any problems I had, and they’d help me to the best of their ability. But other kids aren’t lucky enough to have that level of trust and support. When one contributor told her parents she was depressed, they said, “There is nothing wrong with you. You are just lazy and make up excuses all the time.”
7. “You’re Just Lazy”
Another respondent who suffered from depression as a teenager had a similar experience with a lack of support and understanding from her family, which ultimately made her depression worse. “My entire family thought I was just “Lazy” throughout my teenage years. They’d say it to my face and behind my back. All the time.”
She tells the forum that the only way she escaped her depression was with the support of her close friends, who validated her feelings and lifted her instead of insulting her and leaving her to suffer alone.
8. “Your Sibling Never Behaves Like This”
“Ah, the classic parental technique of sibling-themed emotional sabotage; truly an art form passed down through generations!” jokes one user. When parents compare kids to their siblings, it can destroy their self-esteem because they think they’ll never be good enough.
One commenter shares a traumatic memory at his eagle scout graduation ceremony. “My mother spent a solid five minutes talking about how much easier my older sister was to raise. I have had a legitimate fear of public recognition since then.
Having my mother put me down in front of a room full of my closest friends, teachers, neighbors, and family was one of the defining incidents which solidified my choice to end my own life.” Thankfully, their mental health is on the mend now that they’ve escaped the situation.
9. “Children Are Meant To Be Seen and Not Heard”
A classic phrase kids heard growing up in the 20th century was, “Children are meant to be seen and not to be heard.” But parents may not realize how much of a damper this phrase puts on a kid’s confidence—even into their adult life. “Decades later, it still doesn’t feel natural to speak up,” writes someone on the thread.
10. “You’re Too Fat”
Body shaming children for their size, shape, or weight is never okay. But some parents do it, leaving a massive scar on a child’s psyche. “My mom has always thought she looked frumpy, matronly, and fat because of her mom’s words, to this day, even though my grandma has been gone ten years. It wasn’t even true. Her wedding dress fit my waist when I was an average-sized 12-year-old, for god’s sake.”
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