When parents are simply mean


During the last session of “IT Connect with People”, we identified that most of our parents say to us things that are hurtful, and they don’t even realize it.

Harsh words that parents might say

Let’s have a look at some harsh words that parents might say.

  • “Why can’t you be more like [your brother/sister/some kid]?”
  • “[Another bad mark?] Are you [stupid] or what?!”
  • “You will [go to Medicine School] because I say so!”
  • “Why are you always [lazy]”
  • “You never [finish what you start]”
  • “Why can’t you do/be [something] for a change?”



Our parents might not notice, but this kind of words are very hurtful to a child.

What do you notice about this kind of words? Do you notice that they target the person, and not the situation? Look again.
Do you see the difference now?


Target the person instead of the situation

Most parents target the person instead of the situation:


  • “Why can’t you be more like [your brother/sister/some kid]?” instead of “When you scream in the middle of the store, you behave inappropriately/your behaviour is inappropriate.”
  • “[Another bad mark?] Are you [stupid] or what?!” instead of “This time you haven’t studied hard enough.”
  • “You will [go to Medicine School] because I say so!” instead of “You should consider going to Medicine School because (of) [all of the advantages].”
  • “Why are you always [lazy]” instead of “Most of the time you don’t finish [all the action].”
  • “You never [finish what you start]” instead of “Once again, you haven’t finished what you started”.
  • “Why can’t you do/be [something] for a change?”




There is always a positive intention


In my NLP training I learned that people have different perspectives over the same thing and the most important aspect to think about is that every action has a positive intention. Every single action. This may even mean that parents have a different perspective regarding our life than we do, and that there always is a good intention behind the words they say.

Let’s take another look at the sentences:


  • “Why can’t you be more like [your brother/sister/some kid]?”
  • “[Another bad mark?] Are you [stupid] or what?!”
  • “You will [go to Medicine School] because I say so!”
  • “Why are you always [lazy].”
  • “You never [make finish what you start].”
  • “Why can’t you do/be [something] for a change?”



Now, let’s think about why parents say that. Are they not aware of what they’re saying? Do they really want to hurt their kids? 

Remember, there is a positive intention in every action; the key is to identify it.

I will take each sentence and I will state my opinion about what might be the positive intention behind it.

“Why can’t you be like [your brother/sister/some kid]?” –  As your parent, I want what is best for you and, when I see something I like that other people have, I wish I could offer it to you.

“[Another bad mark?] Are you [stupid] or what?!” – I am confident that you are smart enough to get a good mark, but you might not realize the consequences of a bad mark.

“You will [go to Medicine School] because I say so!” – I want you to earn a lot of money and have a greater status than I have ever had (if the parent didn’t go to Medicine School). I am here to help you build brilliant career and earn a lot of money – because I’ve been there and I know what it takes to succeed. (if the parent went to Medicine School).

“Why are you always [lazy]” – If you did more, you would achieve more, you would be able to take care of yourself and you wouldn’t need to depend on anybody.

“You never [make finish what you start]” – I want you to understand that you can’t accomplish anything if you are always this way. I want you to be able to succeed and, in my opinion, success is about being consistent and self-disciplined; if you finish what you start, you train yourself to be the best.

“Why can’t you do/be [something] for a change?” – Look at a positive example and take all the good things from that. To be like that means that you can better adapt to any situation.


What we should do now

1. find the positive intention

First of all, we should understand that our parents want only what is best for us. They have a very different perspective from us. And it is normal because we are from different generations. They look at reality in a way, while we look at reality in another way. Times have changed, as well. Life is not the way it used to be like when our parents were young.

Try to find the positive intention behind their words, attitude and actions.

As demonstrated earlier, one should take into consideration that one’s parents look at reality differently. They don’t want us to endure the disappointment of not finding a job, of being homeless or hopeless and so on. And this is their way of teaching us something: by saying some words meant to express their positive intention, but which ultimately fail to deliver the message that they convey. That is when our feelings get hurt.

2. Identify their main concernparents-quote-26

Secondly, identify the main concern that your parents have. Maybe they want what is best for you, maybe they want you to be safe, maybe they want more money for you, maybe they think you are smarter, maybe they want to you to find a job fast and so on. Find one word to name that concern.




3. What do you want your parents to know about you

Maybe you want to go to Art School because you are really passionate and you know you want to make a living out of music. Or maybe you can take care of yourself even if you don’t have a job at the moment. Or maybe you want to tell them that you are safe wherever you are and that you can look after yourself. Think about what you want to do or be and think about how this might turn into an issue between you and your family. Try to express your point of view in a way that your parents can understand.


4. Express your thoughts in a presentable way

Let’s say you want to be a singer in a band, but your parents want you to get a job instead. Their main concern is that you might not be paid enough to make a living out of music. They are concerned that you won’t be able to take care of yourself.  So they want you to get a job in order to earn money to support yourself. However,  if you take their concern into consideration and talk to them and tell them that you already earn money from music and present them a strategy on how to make a career out of it, you could all reach a consensus.


What I told you so far is only one strategy to turn hurtful words that our parents say to us into a means of communication.


Let’s recap.

  1. Identify a mean phrase that your parents sayintro
  2. Find the positive intention behing their words
  3. Use one word to best describe their main concern about this situation
  4. Think about what you want your parents to know about you or this situation
  5. Rephrase their main concern in order to express what you want them to know and say it in a way that they can understand


Until next time, remember: there is always a positive intention behind every action.
Mădălina Ghinescu

By |2016-10-20T17:18:32+00:00|Networking|2 Comments

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  1. Hello,

    It is an interesting article. A think that we all know this things but we don’t follow out them in angry moments.
    We want the best for our kids and that makes us overwhelmed with them.
    Every time when I came from parental workshop I put in practice everything I’ve learned but after some days I continue to do and say what I know.

    • Mădălina Ghinescu at - Reply

      Thank you, Mariana, for yur feedback! My question is what can you do to make yourself aware of what are you about to say in those angry moments?

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