We’ve all been there: Our child lashes out, throws a tantrum or seems to purposefully defy us (like when they hit their sibling) and we hear this commonly used phrase roll off our tongue: “That makes mommy sad!”
Alternate versions: “You’re making mommy sad!” or “That hurts daddy’s feelings when you do that.” Whichever way you phrase it, the result is that you’re basically telling your child that their actions have the ability to make us feel bad or sad and that their feelings—large or small—need to be quashed in service of someone else’s.
Worse, the underlying (and fully absorbable) message that our kids can pick up on is that we, as individuals, aren’t in control of our own happiness. (Yes, others can make us feel up and down, but how we react is our choice.)
Of course, if you’ve uttered this phrase already, don’t beat yourself up. In a recent Instagram post on the topic, Dr. Becky Kennedy, a child psychologist and author of Good Inside, explains that often times it’s employed as a way to try and force empathy on our kids. After all, we want so desperately for them to understand that their actions have an impact on others.