8 Surefire Ways To Emotionally Mess Up Your Kid - By Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW
Do you worry about your child’s emotional and mental health? Worry no longer.
Here are eight suggestions that will nearly guarantee your child will suffer from poor mental health, strained family relationships, poor peer relationships, low self-esteem and chronic emotional problems throughout his or her life.
1) Shut down all emotional expression
If your child expresses anger, sadness, fear be sure to make fun of them, tell them not to feel, and dismiss their emotions. Withhold love whenever they express emotion, especially vulnerable feelings. Another tactic is to express more intense emotions than they are showing so they’ll stop feeling and focus on comforting you.
2) Set inconsistent rules
Never talk openly about your expectations for your child’s behavior. Make your child guess what the ground rules are and change them constantly. Be sporadic and unpredictable in giving consequences and punishment.
3) Ask your child to solve your problems
Share all of your worries, concerns, and relationship problems and ask them to solve it for you. Always present yourself as incapable of taking care of yourself and your child.
4) Put down your child’s other parent
If you’re married, never show affection to your spouse. Alternate between being cold and rejecting of your spouse, and fighting and screaming with them in front of your child. If you’re divorce, remain cold, distant, and bitter, angry, and blaming of your ex for the rest of your life. Talk poorly of your ex to your child, and while you’re at it, send subtle and overt messages to your child that he or she is the cause of your divorce.
5) Guilt trip your child when they try to separate from you
Whether your child is two, twelve, or eighteen years old cry, you should cry hysterically or dismiss them when they express thoughts, feelings, or desires that are different from yours. If they show any signs of wanting to explore new things, meet new people, or express any thought or emotion that’s different from you, respond by saying dramatically, “How could you do this to me?”
6) Base your entire self-worth on your child’s performance
Link your self-esteem on your child’s appearance, behavior, how well they do academically, and how many friends they have. Remind them that their performance reflects on you, as their parent, and that any failure makes you feel like a horrible parent. Put extreme pressure on them to be the best in everything they do. Threaten to withhold love if they don’t win the beauty pageant, if they don’t make student body president, if their grades fall below a 4.0, etc.
7) Get in the middle of your child’s relationships
Direct every action your child takes in their relationships. If your child gets in trouble at school, immediately rush to talk to the teacher and get your child off the hook. As your child grows, be overly involved in your child’s friendships, love relationships, and referee all disagreements and fights with peers. If you have more than one child, get in the middle of sibling relationships by comparing them to each other regularly by saying, “Why can’t you be more like ______?”
8) Expect your child to fulfill all of your unfulfilled dreams
Push your child to do all of the things you wished you’d done as a child and teen. If you’ve always dreamed of becoming a professional dancer, force your child to take daily dance classes starting at age 2. If she ever wants to quit dance, alternate between crying hysterically and giving her the cold shoulder. If you’ve always dreamed of being a pro baseball player, force your son to carry a baseball during all waking moments and threatened to abandon him if he isn’t MVP every year. Let him know that if he doesn’t get a college baseball scholarship you will be disappointed for the rest of your life.
If this post hits a little too close to home, consider that possibility that one of the best gifts you can give your child is to work on your own issues. Counseling and self-help books and workshops can help you gain emotional insight, and become a better parent to your child or teen by resolve issues from your own childhood and adolescence.
Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW has over 20 years experience counseling families in UT and is owner and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, LLC (http://www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com), author of The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women (http://www.juliehanks.com/books/burnout-cure/), a popular local and national media contributor and award-winning performing songwriter (http://www.juliehanks.com) Her most valuable experience has been “in the trenches” of family life with her husband of 26 years and their 4 children ranging in age from elementary school to college-aged.