What we say: "You can cry all you want, I'm not going to
pick you up again!"
What we think: "This is breaking my heart but all those
experts can't be wrong."
What the child thinks: "They don't love me. They don't
care about my suffering. Mommy is perfect, so there must be
something wrong with me. I must not be worthy of anybody's
What we say twenty years later: "What on earth do you see
in Tom? How can you let him treat you like that? Don't you know
you deserve better than that?"
What we say: "No more nursing - you're too big for that
What we think: "I'd like to continue, but I just can't
stand all this criticism from my relatives."
What the child thinks: "I've just lost the most important
thing in my life: the long periods of cuddling, and the food that
felt best inside me. I must have done something terrible. I must
be a terrible person."
What we say twenty years later: "Why are you drinking so
What we say: "You can't come into our bed any more. You
won't be lonely. Look, here's a nice big teddy bear to keep you
What we think: "Grandma thinks there's something wrong
with having you in our bedroom. I'm not sure what it is, but it's
more important for us to please her than to please you. Anyway,
this teddy bear should make you happy."
What the child thinks: "It isn't fair! They get to cuddle
with a real person. They don't know me very well. They don't care
about my feelings. Oh well, at least they gave me this bear."
What we say twenty years later: "I know you're upset that
Tom broke up with you, but is that any reason to over-charge like
this on your credit card? Will all this stuff make you feel better
that someone left you? When did you get so materialistic?"
What we say: "You know you're not supposed to hit your
brother! I'll give you a spanking you'll never forget!"
What we think: "There must be a better way to handle this,
but it's what Dad did, so it must be right."
What the child thinks: "I was so upset with my brother I
hit him. Now Dad is so upset with me for hitting, he's hitting me.
I guess it's okay for adults to hit, but not for kids. I wonder
what I should do when I get upset? Oh well, one of these days I'll
be an adult myself."
What we say twenty years later: "A bar room brawl? Adults
don't hit people just because they're upset. I never taught you to
resort to violence!"
What we say: "Well, this is a big day for you. Don't be
afraid, just do everything your teacher says."
What we think: "Please don't embarrass me by acting up at
What the child thinks: "But I'm afraid! I'm not ready to
leave them for so many hours a day! They must be getting tired of
me. Maybe if I do what the teacher says, they'll like me better
and let me stay home."
What we say twenty years later: "What?! Your friends
talked you into taking drugs? Do you do what everybody else tells
you to do? Don't you have a mind of your own?"
What we say: "Your teacher says you aren't paying
attention in class. How will you ever learn anything
What we think: "If my kid never amounts to anything, I'll
feel like a failure."
What the child thinks: "I'm not interested in the things
the teacher talks about, but I guess she knows best. The things
that do interest me must not be important."
What we say twenty years later: You're 28 years old and you
still don't know what you want to do with your life? Aren't you
interested in anything?!"
What we say: "You broke another dish? Oh, never mind, I'll
wash them myself."
What we think: "I know I should be more patient with you,
but at least this way the dishes will get done."
What the child thinks: "Boy, am I clumsy. I'd better not
even try to help any more."
What we say twenty years later: "You want that job but you
won't even apply for it? You should have more faith in
What we say: "Go out and play with your friends - you'll
have more fun with them than hanging around here all day."
What we think: "I know I should spend more time with you,
but I've got so much to do. It's a good thing there are so many
kids around here."
What the child thinks: "I want to do things with Mom and
Dad, but they're always too busy. I guess my friends like me
What we say twenty years later: "You never call us or come
to see us any more. Don't you care about our feelings?"
What we say: "Please leave the room, dear. Your father and
I have something personal to discuss."
What we think: "We have some secrets we'd rather you
didn't know about."
What the child thinks: "I'm not really part of this
What we say twenty years later: "You're in prison?! Why
didn't you tell us you were having problems? Don't you know there
are no secrets in families? We tried so hard. Where did we go