If your tone is affectionate and you're wondering if they want to share their feelings, what's wrong with saying, "What's wrong?" For kids or teens? no thing. But this is different from what we usually hear when a parent is angry at his child, waving his hands in frustration, and asking this question. Then it becomes a question that indicates a defect in the child himself. And that's not what we want to do, right?
No parent is perfect, we are constantly growing and learning, and we all make mistakes. But I advocate limiting this phrase when we are upset with our children.
When a trusted adult, someone the child depends on for everything, points out that something is wrong with the child, the child understands and believes it. They will ask themselves what is wrong with them and they will not be able to come to an answer. They may draw on their limited knowledge and life experience to try to figure it out and are more likely to come up with “something” that is wrong, which can have a ripple effect. Sometimes it's something generic like "I'm not good enough" or "I'm a bad person." And the devastation wreaked by this kind of implicit message can take a lifetime to overcome, even with serious psychotherapy.
What to do instead?
Talk directly about a particular behavior that worries you, but continue to let the child know that they are special and that you love them. And that only a certain behavior that you do not like, and that you want him to know and fix it.
Don't generalize it to something in their very being and make them feel ashamed. It's tough for a child or an adult to put up with shame, and it's hard to overcome. Let's talk about examples:
A child in a hurry and without noticing, accidentally breaks something. You're upset, impulsive and stressed and the words are coming out of your mouth, "What's wrong with you?" Instead.. be direct but also direct. “My dear.. let's slow down.. it's okay.. we're all rushing around here and I know you didn't mean to do this. Next time, just tell Mama or Papa you're in a hurry, stressed or upset and we'll discuss it. Let's see what we'll do.”
A child throws a tantrum in a public place, much to your dismay. Don't miss the word "what's wrong with you?" It slips away from you.. Simply put, take the child to a quiet place, find out what is bothering him, and discuss how he feels. This does not mean that things will go their way, but that they will feel heard, seen, and seen, and will calm this tantrum faster than anything else.
Your teen is making a serious mistake like exchanging messages with a classmate or writing something inappropriate on Facebook. Don't tell him, "What's wrong with you?" Use it as a learning moment to teach him what you want him to know about dating and how to approach it in appropriate ways.
"What is with you?" When it is said in indignation, it is a phrase that I may put in the category of humiliation and shame, and it may have a long-term effect. It is easy for us to be aware and to reform our educational habits and vocabulary! Sometimes simple tips and education can make a big difference! Remembering how we talk to children is important as it shapes the way they see themselves. Alice Miller says it differently:
“We produce destructive people the way we treat them in their childhood.”