when kids say hurtful things

How to Handle When Your Child Says Hurtful Things To You

Last Updated on September 12, 2021.

It’s not easy when your child says hurtful things to you. Sometimes those words can cut deeply and make it hard to move forward. We know that when our kids say hurtful things, they’re usually just trying to get a reaction out of us or they don’t understand how their words affect us. In this blog post, we tell you the best ways to handle these difficult moments so that you can heal from them more quickly!

Why Your Child Might Say Hurtful Things

When your child says something downright mean, you’re probably wondering where it came from. You don’t say mean things to them! Where did they learn this behavior?

They don’t know what they’re saying

They say hurtful things because it’s usually when their emotions are running high. And they might be trying to get a reaction out of you, or maybe just trying to push your buttons so that you pay attention to them.

They’re also still learning about the world around them and what’s appropriate behavior in many different circumstances. Their brain is still developing and they lack impulse control. So they sometimes blurt out things that come to mind.

They struggle with empathy

Your child might be struggling to empathize with your situation. They can’t think about how you’re feeling when your child says hurtful things to you. They only know what they are thinking and experiencing right now, without considering the impact of their behavior on others.

They’re trying to get a reaction

If you’ve gotten upset about your child using hurtful words in the past, they know how to push your buttons. So they might be saying things that they know will get a strong reaction.

Is it about disrespect?

Not usually. Sometimes when your child says hurtful things, they might think that it’s no big deal. They see other kids saying mean or hurtful things and don’t understand why you’re getting so emotional about the situation. And since they don’t know how to handle their own emotions, they can lash out at anyone who is nearby when something makes them uncomfortable.

What to Do When Your Child Says Hurtful Things to You

Here are 4 steps you can take when your child says something that hurts you deeply.

Keep your cool

It’s hard when your child says hurtful things to you, but remember that you are the adult in this situation. You can’t stoop down to their level when they say mean things or you’ll just be modeling negative behavior for them. So take a deep breath and try not to react when your kids use hurtful words because it only teaches them that this kind of behavior is okay.

Take a break when

You might need to take a break when your child says hurtful things. If the situation is really intense, give yourself some time and space so you can come back when you’re calmer and ready to focus on resolving this issue together. You’ll be better able to handle it when everyone stays calm instead of getting upset or lashing out when your child says hurtful things.

Revisit When You’re Calm

When you’re ready, try to unpack and understand why your child said the hurtful thing in the first place. If it’s about pushing buttons or getting a reaction from you, ask them if there’s something else going on that might be making them feel upset or angry.

Try to understand when your child says hurtful things that they’re still learning about the world around them and what’s appropriate behavior in many different circumstances. They lack impulse control because their brain is still developing, so sometimes when an emotional response comes up it just spills out of them without any thought or consideration for others’ feelings.

Use “I feel” statements

Avoid creating a situation where your child feels defensive by using “I feel” statements. If your child says hurtful things when they’re trying to get a reaction, let them know that you understand why they’re doing this. But try not to use language like “you always” or “you never.” Instead focus on how it makes you feel when your child uses hurtful words and talk about specific examples of when this happened before.

what to do when your kid say hurtful things
when your kids say hurtful things

Proactive Ways to Prevent Hurtful Words

Practice Calm Strategies

Self-soothing strategies and calming techniques can proactively prevent your child from saying hurtful things when they feel upset. Teach them to take a deep breath when they’re feeling angry or frustrated as a way of coping with those emotions before they escalate out of control and spill out as mean words when your kid says hurtful things to you.

Use Breathing Techniques Together

Breathing techniques are another way to give kids the tools to manage their emotions when they feel overwhelmed so that they don’t feel the need to says hurtful things to you. Their anger won’t escalate into a full-blown tantrum. Try breathing techniques together when you notice that your child is starting to get angry or frustrated and steer clear of saying hurtful words when they’re upset.

Encourage Emotional Intelligence

You can also encourage emotional intelligence when your child says hurtful things to you. Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in oneself as well as others, and using this awareness to manage behavior effectively when they say something that hurts deeply. You can do this by naming emotions, providing tools and resources for kids to managing those emotions, and helping them practice keeping their emotions in control.

Read Books About Feelings

Books are a great way to teach emotional intelligence when your child says hurtful things. There are tons of books that can help kids learn about feelings and the names for different emotions when they’re feeling upset or angry. These kinds of resources can be helpful when you want to address mean words from a child without overloading them with information so it’s easier when they say hurtful things when they’re upset.

Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

Encouraging an attitude of gratitude can prevent kids from lashing out when they’re feeling upset when your child says hurtful things. Talk about all the good and wonderful things in their life when you want to prevent mean words from a kid when they get angry or frustrated, like all of the people who love them and care for them when your son or daughter is feeling down on themselves because someone said something rude.

Use Screen Time to Watch Educational Programs

There are a number of TV programs that can help your child practice emotional intelligence. We love shows like Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that can teach kids about feelings when they’re upset, as well as give them tools on how to manage those emotions when mom or dad says something mean when your child is trying to get a reaction from you.

The Bottom Line

It’s really hard when your kids say mean things to you. Use our proactive strategies to prevent harsh words, and when the occasion arises use our 4 step strategy to tackle hurtful language. Over time, your child will learn to choose their words wisely, because you cannot take them back!

What You Should Do Next…

1. Snag Our Connected Parent Challenge

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2. Join Our Free Online Community

Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.

3. Take a Free 60-Minute Parenting Webinar

Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.

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