Even a careless word spoken in anger can do horrible damage to your child. Watch your words when you are angry, and if you are upset, give yourself some time to simmer down before starting a conversation on the same topic.
As sad as it can be, our parents can say really hurtful things to us. Since our parents are also sinful, fallen human beings, they are capable of getting caught up in frustration, anger, and selfishness, saying things that can damage our hearts and perspectives on who we are. Whether intentional or not, many things can be detrimental to us, even as adults. If you are a parent or soon-to-be parent, it is important to know what not to say.
Here are five detrimental things parents should not say to their adult children:
1. "You’re Not Good Enough"
One detrimental thing parents shouldn’t ever say to their adult children is, “You’re not good enough.” This simple statement can cause a myriad of negative emotions to storm out through our hearts. While this statement shouldn’t be said by anyone to anyone, it is commonly spoken to adult children by their parents. Maybe a parent's child didn’t finish college, had a high school pregnancy, or got mixed up in drugs. In the parent's eyes, their kid made too many mistakes, caused too much hurt, and will never be good enough.
While this is sad, it is all too common. If your parents have told you you’re not good enough, know they are wrong. You are good enough, and you are dearly loved by the Creator of the world. Your parents have no right telling you something so terrible because you are, in fact, enough because of Jesus. Everyone is enough, and everyone is loved by the Lord. Even if our parents can’t see it, that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
You are good enough just as you are. Despite your past, you are enough because of Jesus. Many people will try to keep us in a state of self-hate with the mean things they say to us, but we don’t have to listen to them. Often, they are speaking from a place of unresolved hurt and bitterness. I understand it is hurtful when parents say mean things to you, but don’t let it dictate how you see yourself. Even when our fathers and mothers forsake us, the Lord will receive us (Psalm 27:10).
If you are a parent and you have told your child they are not good enough, know that this may cause a permanent rift between you and your child. You need to apologize and seek out ways to help your child know they are good enough. However, it might be that your child will no longer trust you with their feelings and not listen to what you have to say because you have hurt them. If this is the case, allow your child to mourn the hurt you have inflicted, give them time, and continue to share the love you have for them.
We live in flawed bodies, which means trust, once broken, can take time, patience, and grace to restore.
2. "I Wish You Were More Like Your Sister/Brother"
A third detrimental thing parents should not say to their adult children is, “I wish you were more like your sister/brother.” While my mother never directly told me she wished I was like my sisters, the message was conveyed by other means. Remarks such as “Why can’t you do as well as your sister?” or “Why can’t you pay attention like your sister?” were common in my life. By always being compared to my two older sisters, I was never going to win.
Since this happened, it made me hate who I was. Deep inside, I felt as though I needed to be more like my sisters, and then my mom would like me. Turns out, I can’t be like my sisters because they are their own unique individuals, and I’m my own unique me. I’m sorry my mother couldn’t understand this, but her remarks about wanting me to be more like my sisters caused self-hatred to develop in my soul. Even as adults, we can be hurt by these words.
If you have been told to be more like your sister or brother, know that you’re not alone. My heart goes out to you, and I want you to know that you are uniquely you for a reason. There is no one like you on the entire planet. God doesn’t make mistakes, and He certainly didn’t make a mistake when He created you. He loves you, and there are many others who love you too.
3. "Why Aren’t You Married Yet?"
A third detrimental thing parents shouldn’t say to their adult children is, “Why aren’t you married yet?” Another harmful question is, "So when are you going to have my grandchildren?" These can be hurtful remarks for many reasons. It could be your child isn’t ready for marriage, doesn’t want to get married, wants to get married but hasn’t found anyone yet, or recently went through a bad breakup. If your child is married but hasn't had children, consider the financial, mental, emotional, and even biological roadblocks that might hinder or slow down this process. Since a myriad of things could cause why your adult child isn’t married or starting a family, these aren't things that need to be commented on. Instead of making comments such as these, ask your child about their weekend, an upcoming vacation, or a book they’ve been reading.
The very question of “Why aren’t you married yet?” is insensitive and hurtful. If your parents have asked you that question and you felt deeply hurt, know that you’re not alone. You might have felt hurt for one of the reasons I listed above or maybe you felt hurt because of another reason. Know that your reason is valid and that your parents shouldn’t have asked you this question. Whether you want to get married or not, this can be a hurtful question that can leave you wondering if your parents even care about your feelings.
4. "You Look Terrible! Maybe You Should Lose Some Weight"
A fourth detrimental thing parents shouldn’t say to their adult children is, “You look terrible! You should lose weight/gain weight/get out more/etc.!” This is probably one of the worst things you can say to your adult children because it implies that their physical appearance weighs heavier than other aspects of their life. Whether your child lost or gained weight, don’t make imperative statements regarding how they look.
Instead, consider asking questions about how your child is feeling and doing regarding work, relationships, and church. Often, how we treat our bodies reflects how our souls feel. As a parent, you should understand your child and give them the same respect you would give anyone else, placing their spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being above their physical appearance. Would you want someone commenting if you had weight gain? Lost too much weight? Or looked like you hadn't slept in weeks? Most of us would say no. As the old saying goes, "think before you speak," especially regarding your adult children.
5. "I Regret You"
A fifth detrimental thing parents shouldn’t say to their adult children is, “I regret you.” This is extremely hurtful on many irreecoverable levels. Often, this statement might be exchanged in the heat of an argument when people are saying things they truly don't mean. If you are a parent to adult children, remember to always watch your words, even when you are angry—even when you have a right to be angry. Even a careless word spoken in anger can do horrible damage to your child. Watch your words when you are angry, and if you are upset, give yourself some time to simmer down before starting a conversation on the same topic.
Children, adults or youth, don’t want to hear that their parents regret them. That’s almost the same as saying, “I hate you.” It is best to watch our words and refrain from saying anything that can be hurtful. If your parents have told you they regret you, rest in knowing that your Heavenly Father loves you, and He never regrets you. He wants to have a relationship with you and surround you with His love. If you are a parent who has told your child you regret them, understand that they might not be open to restarting a relationship with you. It might be that they permanently separate themselves from you. You can try to open the conversation up again. However, you must know that your child may not want to speak to you anymore because of the hurt and pain.
Respect their healing process. Love them through prayer; understand them from a healthy distance. Through God's grace, ask for a chance at restoration. Our God is truly a God of second chances.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/evgenyatamanenko
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.