Children Can Seriously Damage Your Self Esteem

14/11/2014 12:05 | Updated 20 May 2015

Portrait of a small boy with his mother

Children can be so sweet, can't they? They shower you with kisses, give you the best hugs, and say the most wonderful things that make your heart melt.

But not always. Oh no. Your worst enemy wouldn't dare to say some of the things that kids say to adults.

The problem with kids is that they (in the immortal words of Roy Walker from Catchphrase) say what they see. And they cannot tell a lie. Which means that they're not afraid to truth bomb grown ups into oblivion by laughing at our big bottoms when we're hunched over the dishwasher.

For example, yesterday, my seven-year-old son told me I had 'hair like a mad professor.' Then later in the day he was singing along to 'Shake It Off' by Taylor Swift and changed the words to 'Players gonna play play play play play, Mummy's got some weight, weight weight weight.' THANKS.


Kids can be more acerbic than a Vogue editor with a hangover. With clear eyes and unwavering honesty, they tell it like it is.


When my niece was about four, she asked my sister-in-law why she was putting on make up. Her reply was 'because it makes me look better'. After an expertly timed beat, my niece said: 'It's not really working, is it?'

Blithely criticising age and appearance is a perennial favourite, and it makes you long for the days when you could lock children in the coal shed or send them down the mine.

"My kids have said: 'Mum, you're nearly a granny. When I'm 20 you're going to be dead!'" says mother of three Donna, wearily. "They also say I have sheep's hair – fluffy and thin."

Lucy's two teenage daughters tell her they're glad they don't have her nose. "It makes me stare into the mirror, wondering of my nose is really THAT bad."

Jenni says: "While watching the Frizz-eaze advert, my three-year-old son pointed to the "before' shot of the model with Wurzel Gummidge hair and said 'look Mummy, it's you!'"

They're also not afraid to take you to task about those few extra pounds. In fact, like mini Slimming World representatives, nothing escapes their hawk-like attention.

"My daughter went through a phase of continually asking if I was having another baby," says Emma. "And all three of them have commented on how soft and comfy my stomach is to lie on."

"My daughter came in for a pee while I was having a vigorous scrub in the shower," adds Claire. "She said. 'If you had a friend the same as you, you could be in a dance act called the Jiggle Sisters.'"

As well as judging us old, fat and doomed, they also have us down as being really thick.

Jane recalls: "When my daughter was two and watching me clearing up cat puke, she put her arm on my shoulder and said: 'You're not very clever but you're VERY GOOD at wiping up sick.'"

And all this isn't just out of the mouth of babes. Kids seem to think they can say what they like to their mothers and we'll just lie back and take it. When they get older, the abuse just gets more...imaginative.

"I was going out a few months ago," says Anna. "My daughter Nina asked who I was going with. I said no one. She disappeared then re-emerged a few minutes later, sticking her iPad round the corner of the room. It was playing All By Myself. She then followed it in and did the full Bridget Jones routine."

It's not just parents who feel the sharp end of children's unvarnished criticism, either. Teachers, aunties, uncles and family friends are all up for pasting. Whether they're asking you personal questions about why you're not married with children, or pointing out how your eyebrows look like a witch, nobody can escape getting a bad review from a kid.

"Children's fingers seem to slowly gravitate towards the giant mole on my face like ET's to the sky," say Kelly, who teaches at a primary school. "They always ask me, 'Why do you have spots on your face?'"

So how are we supposed to react to all this unsolicited junior heckling? When you're having a bad day even looking at us the wrong way can be hurtful, and children's thoughtless comments have been known to reduce grown ups to tears.

"I was really pleased with my new stripy butcher's apron, and my 17-year-old son said it made me look like a frump," says Fiona. "I cried."

However, we need to remember that what goes around comes around. This is karma. When your child says you look like Bruce Forsyth, or pokes your double chin with a curious finger, remember that we used to do this to grown ups too. And some of us got REALLY personal.

"I think I destroyed my mum on various occasions," says Cath. "Possibly the best was asking why the ladies' nipples pointed up on Dad's Pirelli Calendar and Mum's hung down. Sorry, Mum."

The good news is that they do redeem themselves occasionally. In among the barrage of criticism are some nuggets of gold that we can cling onto, even when our nipples are staring at the floor.

"Once a week my son tells me I'm beautiful," says Emma. And even Donna, who is 'nearly a granny', admits that her boys are 'very complimentary ... They tell me I'm beautiful on a daily basis, and my eldest son says 'you always look so stylish when you're going out."

Awww, bless. It almost makes up for years of emotional trauma.


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