“YOU Are A Terrible Person!”

Saying “you” automatically puts children on the defensive and points toward blame.

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | July 22, 2015

“You! You’re a terrible person! You are thoughtless and careless! You are no good!”

“You” is heard by the child as an attack or blame; that automatically puts a child on the defensive. The quote above is not what the parent actually said to the child; this was below.

“You forgot to put the tools away and they rusted; honestly, when will you ever learn to take care of things.”

Children may often misinterpret comments from a parent and read into it by inflection and facial cues. They hear one thing and think another. Effective communication is the key.

Eliciting cooperation in a positive manner teaches children without unnecessary blame.

Using “I” messages takes practice but it can truly change the direction of the conversation from blame to ‘what can we do about this’ to solve problems.

“Oh my, these tools are rusted; can you help me clean them up?”

Believe me; the child knows they left the tools out. They need not admit guilt for something like this; shame only drives negative feelings deeper. When negative emotions get involved it may take away from the lesson to be learned.

“I” messages help with other people as well: Spouses, co-workers, neighbors, friends, clerks, educators and so on.

Beginning with ‘you’ immediately targets a person for blame in these negative instances. In positive instances, using ‘you’ is helpful.

“You were helpful in working with me to remove the rust; I appreciate that.”

Can you see how this might change how a child might feel afterward? Put yourself in their shoes. Which manner would you prefer?

PHOTO: Courtesy of A2gemma Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Snowmentality Under Flicker/CC License.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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10 Responses to “YOU Are A Terrible Person!”

  1. saymber says:

    What is said and what a child (or anyone) with a fragile or developing sense of self-esteem “hears” can be very different. You illustrate this very well here and great suggestions. What I had to “unlearn” the “barb tongue” and learn to “go soft” and use feeling statements “I feel hurt when you don’t listen to me” kind of thing.


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Like you, I had to change the words and tone and it took practice. My husband came from speaking Spanish to English; some of his words are correct n choice but the degree of that word might be off so he comes across as harsher than intended sometimes. He also has Asperger’s so he does not detect feelings the same as non-Asperger’s people so he has little empathy. Both of those things affected the way he interacted with our children. I used to tell him often that it was not what he said, but how he said it. Thank you, Saymber, for that keen observation; unlearning the negative is what parents must do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a good psychologist once who told me I should point out the positive effort they made first, before letting them know what they forgot to do. He said it won’t put child on the defense or make them feel bad, and the negative won’t out weigh the positive.

    He even said with your spouse, don’t say you did this to me or you did that, but rather say I felt like this when you said.. that way the other person is not on the defense, but rather can clarify what they said, or think about it and apologize for it.

    I guess the idea was to express your feelings without pointing the finger, which would allow the other person to think about what they did or say in a calm non argumentative, blaming environment.

    Great articles as always Jackie..Keep them coming. Glad to see you post more often as well.


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      You have it exactly right, Randall. Reframing can help clarify what was said while clearing the air. Any time positive discussions occur on a regular basis, family members come to expect that and it builds trust. As far as effort, any honest effort should be noted and appreciated. With children, they can still misunderstand intentions at times. I once gave my daughter a card of encouragement and told her she was close to the goal we set together. She thought that I meant she had failed, which was not even close to my message.

      I have to tell you about this about Trust: We got a parakeet in March and he is very tame now. My husband loves the bird and how tame he is but he grabbed the bird to hold him. I told him not to do that again because it would damage his trust in us. He did not heed my warning and he grabbed him again. After the last time, the bird now flies away from him when he needs to put him back in the cage. He has learned how grabbing the bird the damaged the birds trust. He does come near my husband now but he is very wary and watches him. The bird will eventually trust him again; I can see that he is beginning to land on him again. Children are a bit like the bird in that their trust can be damaged but that it can be repaired as long as the positive pattern is reestablished. All of this is a form of communication, which is so important to parents and kids.

      Thank you, Randall, for your kind comments. I hope I can post more regularly. The computer crashing really threw me for a loop. I got so far behind that I may never get caught up. During that month-plus without my own computer made me realize that I was not taking any time for myself. I recently got a new car after my husband took me off the road seven years ago and I will be able to get out soon. It will be a new experience for me and it is both exciting and frightening. I could do a whole new blog on that but I still have so little time and parents are my first and foremost concern.

      I’m sure I will be bumping into you here and there. 🙂 Stay well! ❤


      • When you get back in the car to drive just take it slow. Glad to hear things are looking up for you Jackie 👍🏼😃


      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        The car is so beautiful that I’m almost afraid to damage it. BUT, this is something I wanted, needed and deserve. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • One time my backed into or rather drug the passenger side along a fire hydrant. Ruined the passenger front door and back sliding door (2003 Dodge Gran Caravan). We only had it for 4 weeks. She was afraid to tell me. But when she did, I said don’t worry, that is what insurance is for.

        I learned the more nerves you are about something the more you hesitate. You drove before. It’s like riding a bike again, once you learn you never forget 👍🏼😃🚴🏼


      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        Holy cow! Caravans are great vehicles. That is funny. My daughter had a couple fender benders; one I took the blame for and the other she got repaired before he even found out. 😀 My husband must think I am a klutz with all the things I took the blame for! It was easier to deal with it than to listen to him. As for this car, that is exactly what I told him about the insurance. He took me off the road after I DROVE MYSELF to rehab after the stroke. Then he took me off the road saying he “was afraid” we would get sued. I told him if it turns out that I cannot drive, then I will not drive – that will be my decision. But for him to take me off the road because HE was afraid was wrong. For seven years e went back and fort over this. I told him a few months ago that I could feel my life slipping away, that if I could not get out of the house and back to life then I would not last much longer. My depression was that bad. Just having the car makes me feel better.

        I keep thinking about an uncle of mine. He finally bought a brand new truck after he was in his 40s or 50s. The first thing he did was to take it driving through the woods and fields, places where he’d go hunting and rambling. When he got home that day the truck was scratched all over. He said he could finally relax and not worry about getting it dinged. He was/is a practical person. 😀

        I feel confident that I will be alright. I am getting tested by professionals so if I need hand or alternate controls they can tell me what will work best for me. You KNOW I would never risk hurting others. In the off chance that I cannot drive then the car will go to the daughter that went to school nearby and her education cost way less than the other daughter. My husband has agreed about that. If I kick the bucket then she gets the car anyway. Here is a link to the car:

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nice car Jackie. Be careful with the police though. They say red attracts them. I believe it, as my older son got pulled over 4 times in his 2005 Mazda. But now he has our 98 Toyota Camry and he has not be pulled over once in the last year and a half.


      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        I knew that about red cars getting stopped. I wanted a blue metallic car but they did not have this model in blue. The only color beside red was a dark green that, to me, looked almost black. I did not want black, white, gray, silver, brown or sand. I have never had a new car or one I picked out so, for the first time in my life, I asked for what I wanted – and got it.

        Anyway, I will not speed and if I get stopped it will be the first time in over 34 years so it will be an experience for me. One thing that my crazy life took from me was fear – after all I’ve been through, I have no fear of almost anything. Thank you for the warning, though. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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