My Opinion On: Trigger Warnings & Literature

I have a feeling that if you’re reading this and you don’t write fanfiction, you probably don’t fully understand what trigger warnings are and how they work. So – let me explain the culture of the ‘Trigger Warning.’



In fanfiction, authors started used trigger warnings somewhat recently, right? I have been published fanfiction online and reading it for 11 long years now, and I don’t think I personally saw trigger warnings in use until about 5 years ago. I didn’t question it, of course, because I have depression – I have anxiety – I have been sexually harassed and assaulted throughout my life. Rape, self-harm, mental illness – these topics are hard for me to read. I never truly know what will send me into a mental breakdown spiral until I’ve come across it.

And as I write this, I’m finding articles discussing the culture of the “Trigger Warning” in writing around the 2014-2015 time frame. These things feel very new, right? It feels like “political correctness” to many people – even authors – and to be seen as a bad thing. As a writer myself, I’m not sure I agree with the political correctness bit, but I can see why authors would describe this as a bad thing. Right – because – spoilers?

I imagine just about everyone reading this blog is probably familiar with Harry Potter, so I highly doubt that there’s really in any spoiler in saying that Hermione Granger gets tortured in the last book by Bellatrix Lestrange. This is technically triggering content. If I’m writing a fanfiction about someone, say Hermione Granger, being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange, I have to tag that. Not because it’s the right thing to do (it is, honestly) but also because it’s the guideline of the fanfiction service/database I’m utilizing. I could actually be reported for not disclosing torture as a potential trigger for readers.

As an author, though, how would you feel selling your book and putting on the first page with your book title this: “Warning to Readers: This book will describe in detail the torture and abuse of a main character for several pages in Chapter 23.” That gives an absurd amount of information to the reader before the even official crack open the text. That is not a good feeling.

I think about the books I write and how they do have triggering content, even for me, and I don’t ever stop thinking about where I would put my trigger warning. This book contains mention and descriptions of rape. This book addresses self-harm. This book attacks religious views and counters the belief system of Christianity. This book discusses teenage sexual intercourse and the effect of different choices.

And then I think about the book I’ve just read: Turtles All The Way Down.

That book is why why I’m writing this, actually, because I had mental breakdown after mental breakdown while reading it.

Now I won’t spoil the book – but something you learn within the first few pages is that the main character, Aza, is mentally ill. This is a first person narration from the perspective of a mentally ill teenager – and I don’t think I could read for more than 20-40 minutes at a time without breaking down in tears. It wasn’t necessarily because of the content of the story, though, which was deep in a quiet and patient way. The content wasn’t painful so much as that reality of being a high functioning mentally ill person.

The amount in which I related to that character and her thinking and the impact it has on her life – even as an adult – it is me. That connection and understanding absolutely destroyed me and I often felt that I shouldn’t finish the book. I found myself angry that I didn’t know about this beforehand – I found myself damning John Green, my role model and author idol. It felt like blasphemy to not want to finish this novel I waited so long to get and to read.

But I did finish it, and I did feel relief when I turned the final page, and I will not read it again because I will never forget it. When I put the book back into my backpack and thought about it, really, I decided that – you know what – books should have trigger warnings too. Damn the spoilers.

Trigger Warnings have been around for much longer than people realize. These triggers actually stem from receiving a PTSD diagnosis, in which patients are encouraged to avoid scenarios that could reactivate the traumatic experience within that person’s mind. Those things were referred to as triggers as far back as the early 1900s. (I am not sourcing this information intentionally because I knew this already, btw). So it’s not like this is new to the world or to our culture. It’s just new to literature – and not even the kind of literature you pay for, which is kind of lame.

Which is also kind of why I’m writing this.

Some sort of warning about the potential triggering of an unhealthy emotional response to the content within a piece of text is what I feel is necessary to propel literature into a truly socially aware dimension. I’ve always contested that we can do, and do, and do, and do positive things to change the world we live in – to make it a better place – but underneath it all – beyond that “actions speak louder than words” bullshit – our language overrides our physical choices. Random Person A can go to women’s marches, black lives matter movement, anti-gun rallies, and share every body positivity post they see on social media – but if that person still uses the N-word and calls women in short skirts slutty – then that person isn’t really changing anything.

The reality of our world is that actions speak louder because of the words we use. If Random Person B is going to a women’s march and also educates misogynistic co-workers, that person’s actions are so important because their words support it. Even deeper than that, the language that we use to educate someone who isn’t aware of understanding of the social issues going on in the world right now even further amplifies the actions that we take.

So – what does “actions speak louder because of the words we use” have to do with Trigger Warnings in traditional literature? The answer is: everything!

Mental Health Stigma still exists – as evidenced by harmful movies depicting mentally ill people as villains, for example: Split. People aren’t taking mental health seriously and often treat those with mental illness as infantile and choosing of their fate. By including Trigger Warnings on all forms of literature, we are empowering the reader to decide if they can handle the content. By including Trigger Warnings, we are acknowledging that mental illness is a burden that cannot be unloaded from one’s self. By Including Trigger Warnings, we are changing the language by bringing it forward and normalizing that some content is difficult to read and may cause emotional distress – even to those who are not mentally ill.

All I’m trying to say, really, is that we need Trigger Warnings on anything that we would read… Newspapers, novels, essays, magazines, poems, short stories, blog posts, anything! We owe it to ourselves, to our readers, and to the future generations to start making a positive change in the way we write the world – and the way we present that to those who will inevitably replace us.


My Opinion On: Tumblr’s Yahoo Advertisements


Excuse the fuck out of me but…
FUCK THIS ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I want to see none more of these ads because this teaches people to define themselves by others. As an adult who changed for others growing up so many times – I took me actual years to find out who I was when I finished high school. Did a I really like these bands? Did I really like these shows, books, and games? I was a collage-like shadow of the people around me at any given time until I was eighteen years old wading the waters of uncertainty until college.

I was starting over with no friends and no personality outside my pressing depression and anxiety, and my frantic hot-mess-mom status. Still, I wasn’t defining myself – I was defined by my status as a mother and my affliction of mental illness. It would be a whole year, when I was turning nineteen, that I realized I could exist as an individual uniquely. That is when I saw myself make a mark on someone else that belonged to me. My love of something that I could share with another person who became genuinely vested in it as equally as myself. It was not a forced behavior or a shadowed one – but one that I actually shared. It was a joint interest. Our love of the thing was not manufactured by either party.

That friend – I lost her when we graduated. We were just different people, it seemed, and we went our separate ways. But she still loves those things I shared with her, maybe quietly, but it’s still present and strong. Since then I have spent the last five years figuring out who I am while dealing with depression and anxiety as “curveballs” instead of “traits” of who I am. I have made being a parent a factor in who I am in a way that is unique to me and my personality. No more do I say “I’m a young mom” as though it’s just another piece of my identity puzzle. Instead I say it distinctly because there is no other mom exactly like me in the entire world.

I don’t want people to see ads like this an be shaped by the lies, the indecision, and the dependency that it creates. I want commercials that move me – ads that understand me – and media that shows the world what it’s capable of rather than what this fodder encourages us to become in life: forever impressionable.

I want you to like that band because you fucking like it and don’t give a fuck what anyone else says or thinks. People will like you for you, even if they don’t like the same things, because people like personalities. People fall in love with who you are as a whole. Not the pieces of personality that you can collect from everyone else.

So in closing, I kindly reiterate.


You are invalidating your children… and pretty much everyone else too…

Disclaimer:     The only things that you need to know about this article this week are that 1) I am a parent; 2) I am still young enough to be a considered “child” to to most parents; 3) I’ve had a decent amount of academic exposure to sociology and psychology; and 4) I’m hyperaware of social issues. These particular issues have been gaining a lot of momentum – especially online – and are things I feel need addressed more straightforwardly. As always, be reminded that this is an opinion article. Although, if you ask me, I will tell everyone to take these things into consideration when, you know, being a human. Also be aware that there is course language in a few paragraphs of this article.

* terrible parent voice*      You made yourself mad…

This is a post that set me off about a month ago. I replied (on my own blog without any tags) with a slew of swear words and insults. As a parent, it’s hard for me to watch younger children talk poorly about their parents without considering what actually makes a good or a bad parent. As you can see… this post had no context. If you’re a parent you know that sometimes – yeah – your kids piss themselves off and that’s just the reality of the situation! I was having bad anxiety that week and I wish I wouldn’t have said anything because afterwards I got a message from the original poster telling me I was a shitty parent and that I was an asshole for replying to his or her post.

Furthermore, his or her friends started messaging me to kill myself. They don’t know me, but I’ve had a long struggle with self-harm and depression on top of my severe anxiety. This experience just heightened the slew of attacks I’d already been having at the time. I spent hours evaluating why I was so upset, evaluating if I was in the wrong, if I was a bad parent, and if having a blog was even worth it anymore because this one incident would ruin my reputation as an open-minded person – something you can rarely come back from on the internet.

But that’s when I realized – no. I wasn’t wrong because everything I posted in the reply was right. This person wasn’t a parent. This person didn’t explain why he or she felt that this was a terrible parent thing to say to a child. This person didn’t think before they posted. The last realization is what hit me hardest, though, because neither had I! It made me wonder more about how people discredit each other all time. I had easily done it to this person who eventually revealed that he or she had a terribly manipulative parent and reacted in the same way his or her parent would to any kind of criticism.

I never replied to the message from the original poster because I realized that with my anxiety I was bound to follow in the footsteps of my mother. I would reply until I was red in the face with a tear stained cheeks. Just as she has severe anxiety, so do I, and recognizing the pattern in her has saved me a world of trouble. Being at odds with her through my childhood has shown me how easily an argument with someone can turn dark and hateful, even when it’s not even sincere. Once it happens it cannot be undone so I just kept my curiosity self-contained. Until now.

All of this has inspired me to write this article. Parenting is something that the Internet has a fascination with – are you doing it right; are you doing it wrong? So, today I want to talk about some things parents do that discredit their children – and consequently, other people too.

(1)      It’s just a phase; you’ll grow out it someday. You might change your mind when you’re older. There will come a time when you don’t want/ won’t like that anymore. You’ll regret that someday. Everyone goes through it. This is normal but it won’t last forever.

            I’ll admit that I’m guilty of telling my 7-year-old that he might change his mind about things. As parents we don’t think of the implications that this imposes on our children, though. The reality is that this is a form of invalidation. When you tell your child that he or she is just going through a phase and that he or she will regret something in the future – you are basically telling them that their opinions and feelings don’t matter right now. Remember that saying? “Kids are sponges,” yeah – that is real. Kids remember everything. Truth be told, it is harder for them to remember things if the child hasn’t developed language, but that’s a completely different matter.

Sounds made up, right? Invalidation – that cannot possibly be an actual thing, right? Unfortunately, there is psychological relevance to invalidation. It’s not called “invalidation,” but it is based upon the premise of devaluing your child. There is a quote from this article that I simply cannot summarize, so allow me to copy it word-for-word for you right here:

“Invalidating someone else is not merely disagreeing with something that the other person said. It is a process in which individuals communicate to another that the opinions and emotions of the target are invalid, selfish, uncaring, stupid, most likely insane, and wrong, wrong, wrong. Invalidators let it be known directly or indirectly that their target’s views and feelings do not count for anything to anybody at any time or in any way.”


Is it really fair to play games in front of your sister when you know she isn’t old enough yet? You don’t know what you’re talking about, sweetheart. Can you share your cookies with your cousin, please, since he doesn’t have his own? That’s too hard for you; why don’t you try something you already know how to do. You can’t do that unless you do it the way I showed you.

            None of these things sound very bad. We want our children to be generous and compassionate, and we want them to be fair. We want them to be happy and to listen to directions. What we don’t consider is that we do this so often while our children are growing up that it transitions into somewhat harsher actions of invalidation – because certainly they should know better by now, right?

You can’t do that because I said so. I’m the adult in this house and I make the rules. You don’t have a choice. That’s not your decision. You’ll have to get over it. It doesn’t matter. One day you’ll realize that I was right. I carried you for nine months; we take care of you. I did what I thought was best for you.

These are things we usually say to our children when we’re mad at them, or we don’t like something they’ve said, done, or chosen. Really, though, when we say these things we are manipulating them to think that they were wrong. We are choosing our language so that when they hear it they will believe that because of our “superior” role in the household that we were automatically correct. By creating this relationship we can teach our children that when they want something that they are automatically incorrect – exactly the opposite of ourselves as the parents. How awful is it to grow up thinking that everything you think and feel is wrong?

Disqualification is the result of invalidation, you see. By developing a psychology that disqualifies, oneself is imposing the idea that his or her internal desires are invalid (Allen). We’ve all heard of the “self-fulfilling prophecy,” the idea that we can avoid something so fervently that we blindly walk down the very path that leads us to that same thing we are trying to avoid. Too often we are told that we are exactly like our parents, or that our children are exactly like us. The truth is, if you say this enough even when it’s false – eventually it will become true. The reasoning is rooted in invalidation and disqualification. When someone develops the psyche of a disqualifier, essentially he or she begins behaving in a way that invites or provokes others to invalidate their decisions (Allen).

Someone who has always been told that they are too reckless, too radical, or too outspoken then they are more likely to be reckless, radical, and outspoken. If you spend eighteen years telling your daughter that she needs to keep her opinions to herself – she is more likely to share her opinions because she doesn’t know how to function without being told in some variation that basically her opinions don’t always matter. Tell a young man that he needs to stop putting himself in life threatening situations, then he’s more likely to do something dangerous because he’s used to hearing that he’s done something crazy and out-of-control. Disqualification is not unlike addiction in that respect. The individual becomes dependent on the idea of hearing the same thing, and as such they do things to continue the pattern.

To summarize and wrap up this particular problem, I want to list some language that we use when we are disqualifying our children. Next to it is my proposed alternative language.

Disqualifying language Supportive/Inclusive language
Be happy / Cheer up / Don’t be sad / Don’t look so serious / Don’t look so cocky / You’re bringing everyone down


This encourages a child to believe that their emotions are not appropriate or are unwanted – this teaches them to fake their emotions or better hide them so that they are not commanded to feel differently. This is especially true for teenagers who suffer from self-esteem issues frequently during puberty.

What can I do to help you right now? Can I do anything to take your mind off of what’s bothering you? Do you need a moment to yourself?


Instead of suggesting your child should feel differently, this acknowledges your child’s current emotions and that there is actually a spectrum of emotions to be felt. By offering your support and/or assistance this will create a strong bond of trust between you and your child. He or she will not be discouraged to discuss things with you in the future (during those teenager years, for example).

Get over it / Stop whining / You don’t understand / I tried to help you / There’s no reason to be upset or angry / You should be thankful that something else didn’t happen


This suggests to your child that it is undesirable to feel anything other than happy and calm. It also can lead your child to believe making mistakes is unacceptable. However, feeling defeated and complaining are facets of life that cannot be avoided. Making a mistake or messing something up is unavoidable. Causing a child to feel this way can lead him or her down a path of lying or deceiving so that you will not judge them or invalidate something that they have done.

You did your best and you learned something / There will be more opportunities for you / It’s okay to feel that way because it means you have passion and drive / That might not have be the best experience but that is okay


This allows you to encourage your child when he or she may not be thrilled about the outcome of something. So maybe he or she didn’t listen to your advice and they lost the big game or they got a bad score. Instead of invalidating those emotions teach your child to choose a more positive outlook without compromising the way that they feel right now. Turning your emotions into fuel, not matter how “bad” those emotions are, can really lead your child to a life of fulfillment because they will not become discouraged by something difficult.

Don’t take it personally / I was just kidding / That’s not what I meant and you know it / Forget about it / You should be embarrassed or ashamed / I didn’t hurt you or your feelings / Are you on your period / Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed / This is getting pathetic / It’s all about you


By saying any of these things to your child you are basically teaching them that you can say whatever you want to them. In addition to that, you are suggesting that something that is out of his or her control is the reason that their personality and emotions are undesirable. If a child is offended by something and it hurts their feelings you can’t discredit it because it teaches the child to believe that their reactions are not valuable to anyone. A child raised with this type of language will get taken advantage of by others frequently and only perpetuate feelings of distress.

I apologize for hurting your feelings / I should have chose my words better / What I did or said was wrong and I am working on it / Let’s talk about this and try to recover / You are feeling this way a lot – do you think we need to talk about it more or see a professional for more help / You are focused on yourself lately – is there something going on / Do you feel like you’re getting healthy attention from us and/or your peers


Firstly, always be willing to admit when you have done something wrong in front of or to your children. This will show them that not only that it is it okay to make mistakes but that they should acknowledge and fix them too. Opening the communication with your child also allows them to define themselves and the severity of any issues that they are experiencing. If you’re child is suffering from a serious issue the first step is in admitting that there is a problem. Foster your child’s growth, and recovery if necessary.

(EQI – source for disqualifying language)

(2)      You’re a little boy – you can’t play with dolls! You’re a little girl – you can’t wear that shirt! Girls don’t roughhouse. Boys don’t play dress-up. Boys will be boys. Girls will be girls. That’s for girls. That’s for boys. Marriage is for only a man and a woman. Homosexuality is a sin. Same-sex couples shouldn’t have children. You should find a boyfriend/girlfriend. When are you going to settle down with a good man/woman?

            For so many years in the lifespan of humankind there have been “girl” things and “boy” things. Where does this come from even? Oh yes – our fucking genitals. I know that is harsh language – but I won’t apologize for it. Gender identity is assumed for children long before they are ever born! As soon as you find out if your child has a penis of a vagina you are buying all pink or all blue. You buy cars or dollies. That child’s identity is chosen for them based on their sex.

Unfortunately, nobody teaches in any mandatory classes (yeah, I’m looking at you American health class curriculum) that GENDER and SEX are two different things. Gender is how a person chooses to identify him or herself. There’s even the possibility that someone wants to identify as neither gender, or changes their gender day-to-day based on how they feel when they wake up.

Gender is a very fluid thing for a good many people. A harsh reality on the matter is – children can know as young as two to four years old whether or not he or she has the wrong gender identity (Psychology Today – GID). In fact, it’s more common than people really credit for someone to feel as if he or she is the wrong gender. One in every thirty thousand men and one in every one hundred thousand women, actually, feel as if they were born the wrong gender (Psychology Today – GID). Just to be clear, it’s more likely for someone to have some form of gender dysphoria than it is someone will die from a shark attack (which if you Google it, you’ll find that the odds are 1 in 3,748,733 – it’s also more likely than dying by a fireworks accident). One psychologist says that most parents seek out professional treatment once their child is school age because it is a “phase that hasn’t passed” (NPR).

It’s important to pay attention to your child’s behaviors and ‘leave the window open’ (although, I disagree with one of the NPR psychologists in this respect) so that your child can show you if he or she agrees with the gender identity that you have chosen for them (by their genitals of all things). When your child tells you plainly that he or she thinks that he or she is the wrong gender – take it seriously. During the interview it is stated that Dr. Zucker has never had a child conclude on his or her transgender identity and later change their mind. That means – yes – if your child tells you at two, three, or four years old that he or she is the wrong gender – it is highly probable that he or she is secure in those thoughts. Older children expressing these types of feelings should be taken even more seriously because of the amount of time that it has taken to reach a point of comfort to discuss those feelings.

Building on this even more – do not ever judge different sexualities in your children – or ever really. This is especially hard for people within the religious community. Many religions believe homosexuality to be a sin and therefore submit their child to constant invalidation, verbal abuse, and even therapy designed to make him or her heterosexual. Honestly, this is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever heard of happening outside of actual murdering and physical violence against people for being of a different sexuality (or gender identity, by the way). Of course, religious wars are a real thing – but that’s one of those touchy subjects I’ll save for a rainier day.

I don’t agree with everything perfectly being said – but I think if you’re religious and you are struggling with a child whose sexuality is outside the realm of the church’s acceptance – you should really read this letter by a Catholic pastor. Now, I know that this pastor is suggesting that you seek therapy after a child comes out as homosexual, bisexual, or otherwise. Understand that this is meant to deal with the feelings of distress you have as a devout member of your church and for the benefit of your child. It is not to reconfigure your child to be heterosexual. Having parents in the religious community means that your child is likely suffering from a mental disorder as a result of all the suppressed feelings and hidden identity. The therapy is to help you cope as a parent and to help your child deal with lasting impressions which have oppressed them. It is becoming more and more common for churches to accept and incorporate all types of different gender identities and sexualities into their following because – oh goodness is this possible – the only person that can judge them is God (or gods depending on your religion). That means you shouldn’t open you mouth about whether or not God (or gods) will accapet your child, and definitely not using your religion as a way to devalue the child as a person.

Your child loves differently than you do. Your child did not murder someone.

Unless, of course, your child did murder someone – in which case the homosexuality is definitely the least of your worries. Get immediately psychological help and contact the authorities. Anyway… enough of that… back on track!

Another good read for parents and families facing sexuality questions and concerns is this pamphlet prepared for educational purposes by the American Psychology Association. This walks you through all of the questions that most parents and people have initially about their child’s sexuality. My favorite section is “What is the psychological impact of prejudice and discrimination,” which addresses things same-sex couples have been unable to enjoy as freely as heterosexual couples. Until recently, marriage was a part of that list. America, along with many other countries, is has legalized same-sex marriage since the publication of that article. Further in the reading, it also discusses the importance that homosexuality (and otherwise) is not a mental disorder, and that support is crucial when facing a “coming out” transition.

Really, just don’t invalidate your child’s identity or sexuality. There is nothing wrong with him or her. Listen to your children when they ask you to use certain pronouns. Take your children seriously when they are trying to share something with you like a same-sex partner or a desire to not identify with any gender. Just accept them and love them as a person not as a gender identity or sexuality.

(3)      Oh – you should try that – I never had that kind of opportunity. This wasn’t available when I was your age. You’ll thank me for this experience when you’re older. This will be good for you. You need to do this because it will look good in the future on your resume or job application. My parents made me do this when I was a kid and it was amazing. It’s a tradition so you have to do it too.

            Isn’t it hard to not want things for our children? We want them to be cultured. We want them to be experienced. That’s the problem with us – we want so much for them. As it stands, though, our children really aren’t miniature versions of us. Every person is unique in some respect or another. There are similarities, of course, that we share with our parents and our children with us. This truth does not give us permission to make decisions for our child unless it is in regard to their safety. That is literally the only time that you should be making a choice for your child ever. You can’t make a child join a sport just because you like it, and you can’t forbid your child from playing a sport you don’t like either. Allow your children to decide for themselves what they want to do and you’ll be surprised to find out that they will honestly figure out who they are on their own just fine.

So, I don’t think parents actively decide to “live vicariously through” their children. To be honest, we [my husband and myself] struggle with this very line a lot. My husband bowled and played soccer when he was younger but stopped in high school. As it turns out, our son now loves soccer and bowling. We find ourselves pushing him to be better – and unfortunately, it’s not always in a way that is healthy. That’s right, folks, even I – the writer of this article – find myself committing some of these terrible, awful, no good things. Children can adopt the interests of their parents, its’ common, but it’s not right to treat your child the way you would treat yourself if you had a second chance to achieve these same successes. You will push them twice as hard because you already gave up or failed once, and that will make it hard for your child to see you as a parent so much as a coach (or a dictator)…

This scenario can play out two ways. Your child likes your ideas – your child likes what you like – and so your child takes your advice and achieves all of the success that you hoped for when you were their age doing the same things. Unfortunately, while your child reaps the benefits of your dreams – you’ll become depressed (Psychology Today). This theory is “the savior” outcome. You see yourself as “the savior” for your child because you had to sacrifice your aspirations to ensure that they did not have to do the same (Psychology Today). I don’t think parents realize exactly how often that they do this verbally and nonverbally, as well as aggressively and passively. It’s so easy to congratulate your child by saying: “All the miles I put into this for you have finally paid off! Look at this trophy!”

I’ll be honest, I said exactly that to my son when he won not one but two soccer championship games in the same day. I was so proud of him because he was seven and he played with the six-seven tournament and the eight-nine tournament. He played seven soccer games that day – one of which went into overtime! And he was so excited that we turned around and went bowling. Immediately afterwards. He bowled a 100 and a 75 during those two games. He was on a roll that day. But I passively applied my “savior” complex to the situation by making it about what I gave to him rather than what he earned himself. We all do this and it’s important that we try to avoid it.

Now, for every good outcome there’s a bad one, right? That’s like – what physics? For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction! The second outcome is that called “the avenger;” this relates back to disqualification. Your child sees his or her parent focusing on his or her negative behaviors which hinder success and therefore continually behave in a way that perpetuates the same (Psychology Today). What ultimately causes this is when a parent is himself or herself taught not to express frustrations or behave in a way that could compromise an opportunity thought to be good for them in childhood. As a parent you then perpetuate those ideals even though you disagreed with them growing up. This leads you to later defending your child’s feelings of resentment and outbursts of otherwise inappropriate behaviors.

My mom may or may not read this, but she is very much like this. When any of her children are in the wrong – she will scold us with hellacious vigor [sorry mom]. However, if anyone else tells her that her children are bad or wrong in anyway then she jumps to our defense. Many people believe that this is what you should do as a parent – you are obligated always protect your children. Unfortunately, protecting your children can sometimes mean telling them that they are wrong and that they are making really bad decisions. Let me reiterate, though, that homosexuality is not a bad decision. A bad decision is committing a crime or risking one’s safety or that of another person [like murder or suicide, for extreme examples].

In the end, everything comes full circle when the “avenger” role is occupied. Invalidation, disqualification, and manipulative language eventually just breaks down whatever quality relationship exists between you and your child. Even with the “savior” outcome doesn’t end well. You will eventually resent your child, which will result in the exact same thing: invalidation, disqualification, and emotional manipulation.

(4)      Why can’t you sit still like your brother? Why can’t you be quieter like your sister? Are you going to go to college like your cousin? What if you did something like you brother? I think you’d like to follow in your friend’s footsteps. Maybe you should try what your friends are doing. Maybe you should study more like this other person. You’re the smart one and your sister is the creative one.

            In my husband’s family – he was the “quiet” middle child. His brother was the “baby” and his older sister really didn’t have a label given to her. In my family, I was the “emotional” middle child. My younger brother was the “socialite” and my older brother was the “trouble maker.” My cousins were often labeled: daredevil, wild child, and oddball. My nieces and nephews are usually labeled “quiet,” “athletic,” and “awkward.” Even the grandchildren in the family are labeled: “energetic,” “behaved,” “aggressive,” “silly,” and “shy.” Labels are pretty shit at school but they even more shit when plastered on by your parents.

So it is okay to use these words to describe your children. It is not so okay when you use this to identify them. This is you picking their identity for them. When you start calling them something as an identifier – “he’s my athletic child” – you basically are creating the perception for and of them. Growing up for as long as I remember I was also called the “smart” child. It still happens today. Now, I’m a cocky person at times, and I won’t deny being a smart person ever – but when I became a mom in high school the amount of pressure that label bore into me was excruciating. Every grade I earned was no longer just a good grade or a bad grade. It was a consequence. My grades were consequences and reflections of my life decisions. That is quite a lot for a sixteen year old girl not accounting for the fact that the school’s been trying to pressure me into picking a college and major since first grade! I’m not the only person that feels this way, though, because the same troubles weigh heavy on the minds of athletes and students in other extracurricular activities. Any labels assigned to a child prevent them from fully expressing themselves. They need to explore the word the way it was meant to be explored – trial and error (so long as safety is not compromised, as I keep reminding you).

In addition to labeling children, what about those first statements, how those come into play here? Honestly, there is so much wrong with comparing your child to other children – especially within your own family. Firstly, your child is different from other children. Remember that everyone is unique thing – yeah, that does apply to your child. All the time, too, just in case you only wanted it to apply when they are successful. It means your child’s best and worst traits are unique and should be acknowledged and respected equally. Don’t believe me – that’s okay… I’m confident that you will.

Doctor Sylvia Rimm has a website dedicated to the effects of sibling comparison. You can read the full text here, but I’ll summarize what it discusses for you quickly. The implications of labels for your children, some of which I’ve stated my opinion on based on previous points in this article. However, Dr. Rimm also goes on to elaborate how the psychology of labels can cause children to consciously and subconsciously competes with one another, or even with outside parties, to prove themselves to their parents. They may refocus on only the thing that you believe them to be, willing to give up in areas that they believe that they could never surpass their siblings in otherwise (Rimm). A perfect example of this is in regard to my and my siblings.

My eldest brother struggled with severe ADHD and never excelled in school. My mother then was excessively interested in my being smart and academically versed. By the time my younger brother popped up she was balanced. She believed in encouraging him for do his best and pushing him to just improve in whatever ways he could manage. Our academic careers accurately reflect our parenting, but also the labels assigned – since I was called the “smart” one (interchangeably with the “emotional” one).

My brother really only tried to make sure he was passing class, getting extra help only if he needed it. He was a “B” and “C” student, which isn’t bad. I know it’s hard to forget this in America where only “A” and “B” students can get into college and be success stories, but “C” is average. Being average means that you are where you should be practically. Scoring something that is considered average is actually where, based on evaluated standards, you are expected to be usually. The problem is – I was already the “smart” kid. Nobody will ever admit it out loud but this was discouraging to him. Dr. Rimm is right – it creates an unspoken competition because he went on to pursue things in which I had failed – such as the prestigious show choir and sports. It’s unintentional, in most cases, but it is damaging no matter how absent-mindedly labels are placed and statements are made by parents.

The best advise for avoiding this type of behavior comes right down to how you speak, and how you encourage your children. Firstly, don’t label children in anyway (Rimm). Labeling, as explained, causes so many issues. Just don’t do it ever, and if you do it try to apologize and explain why it’s not okay so that your children don’t do it to other children or their children in the future. Also, make sure you put education first (Rimm). It is illegal to not have your child in school or participating in a school curriculum. Focus on making sure that your children are doing well in school no matter what their preferences for after high school are – encourage them to take classes that will better help them in their decisions. Focus on making sure that everyone’s academics are the priority because all work habits start with how a child works at school. Lastly, be sure to always regard both parents and/or parent figures as intelligent (Rimm). Children need to have a high regard for both parents – and children who associate themselves as more like one parent will adopt their personality traits and mannerisms. It wouldn’t be wise for your child to affiliate with his or her mother and constantly hear that their father is the “smart” one.

See how that works – labels suck. I’m not even going to try talking about favoritism between children because this article is already length enough. But if you happen to be worried that you might be playing favorites – you should probably read this article to better prevent yourself from – you know – doing that.

(5)      There are children starving in the world – eat your dinner! Don’t be wasteful because not everyone has the same privileges that you have. There are people in the world who have less than we do so you should be grateful. It could be worse. That’s not a big deal. That isn’t even a real problem.

            I am super excited to see that mental illness is becoming more prevalent in the media these days. There’s so much stigma about common disorders like anxiety and depression, people disregarding them as honest afflictions. I’ve talked about the severity of anxiety and depression in my previous articles. They are serious and should never be disregarded simply due to the staggering number of people affected and diagnoses with these diseases. If you think I’m just excusing people – let me remind you that Ebola wasn’t even a pandemic and people were all talking about how severe it was and how it was a risk. You have a bigger chance of someone committing suicide than you do of someone contracting Ebola in the United States.

For obvious reasons, displayed in these two articles by Huffington Post in relation specifically to anxiety and depression, you should never say these types of things to someone with a mental disorder. Firstly, they have a medical predisposition due to their illness to take what you’re saying extremely personally. If you told someone struggling with depression because of his or her gender identity and sexuality which is being oppressed by his or her parents that their problems aren’t even real problems because he or she isn’t dying or dead – well, you could wake up the next day to find out he or she committed suicide. Convincing someone that their problem is not a real problem is almost as bad as holding a gun to someone’s head when that person has a mental illness. You are being abusive and you need therapy too (probably for the same reason your child would need therapy, honestly – I’ll explain that later).

For less obvious reasons (although, I can’t say I understand why they are less obvious), this is equally as detrimental to children who don’t have mental illness. You could actually cause your child to develop a mental illness as the result of saying things like this to him or her. Everything ties back into disqualification and invalidating your children. Even though it’s a fallacy (a philosophical theory that essentially means that something is false or conceived without any logical basis – I’m getting kind of counterproductive here but you should know what that means if you didn’t already) invalidation of children is a slippery slope. Now, not all parents who have disqualifying language when addressing their children raise children with problems. In fact, parents that do all of these things don’t always raise children with problems either. There is some “luck of the draw” aspect to it as well.

I give a lot of credit to my mother. She struggles day-in-and-day-out and she still makes improvements, no matter how small that they are, daily. When I was a kid she was deeply prejudice even though I don’t think she actively did it. In fact, a good many of our behaviors are ingrained (DeName). We adapt and incorporate the behaviors that we are familiar with from our own childhoods (DeName). They define us as adults and become the examples we set for our own children.

Now that’s what I call a full circle! All of these bad things that we do as parents we learned from their parents, and their parents from their parents before that! How does anyone ever function on a healthy level with information like that rattling around in their heads? I think the better question is how does anyone actually function healthily in any situation, but that’s almost too philosophical for this piece.

This wouldn’t be a good article if I didn’t offer up some advice, especially since I definitely believe that this is a problem. Being a parent is one of those damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t life things. There is no single way to be a good parent because it all depends on family dynamics and personalities. Some parents need to be more restrictive with their children than others, for example. It’s all up in the air. All of the above points I’ve discussed are matters that are crucial in your child’s life. Doing any of these things can have detrimental consequences right down to your child killing himself or herself – something that you will forever regret watching happen as a parent.

As I said, I struggle with a some of these mannerisms too. I’ve shared the kind of background I come from, and it’s certainly not perfect. I’m certainly not perfect. Nobody can ever be a perfect parent, and that’s the cold reality of it. We can, however, be better parents and we can be better people. If you find yourself doing any of these things why don’t you try treating it like a bad habit? Take the opportunity to promote change within yourself and your relationship with your child?

Growing up I always heard that if I was exposed to information at least seven times in two or three different ways that I would inevitably remember the information. This is what my teachers told me when I asked why we had to see the same information so many times and spend so much time on chapters that the class has clearly mastered. Later in life teachers started talking about breaking and developing habits that will help us succeed in the future. At that point we were told twenty-one days, or approximately a month, is the time it would take of doing something every single day in order to break or create a habit. Breaking a habit is, after all, just developing a new habit of not doing something or doing something else.

But of course it takes much longer than twenty-one days… go figure!

Studies actually show that it could take as long as 66 days for the average person to break or develop their habits (Clear). Remember that word “average” is only for the majority of people – that’s where people generally conclusively had a “habit.” Some people may take more or less time depending on a variety of different factors (Clear).

Changing how you raise your children to ensure the healthiest life he or she can enjoy, it’s not easy. As stated, it takes time. It will be hard. There will be mistakes along the way. More importantly than the struggles is the outcome. You will become a better person. You will have a better relationship with your kids. You could work on a better relationship with your parents.

And when that’s all done – you just might realize that you are doing better with other people too.


Allen, David M., M.D. “Invalidation in Families: What Are The Hidden Aspects?”          Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

Allen, David M., M.D. “Living Vicariously through Children with a Twist.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

Clear, James. “How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by       Science).” The Huffington Post., 10 June 2014. Web.       17 Aug. 2015.

DeName, Kristi A. “Repetition Compulsion: Why Do We Repeat the Past?” World of Psychology. Ed. John M. Grohol. PsychCentral, 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

P., Steve. “Invalidation.” Invalidation. EQI, n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

“Psychology Today.” Gender Identity Disorder. N.p., 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Aug.        2015.

Rimm, Sylvia B. “The Effects of Sibling Competition Dr. Sylvia Rimm.” The Effects of Sibling Competition Dr. Sylvia Rimm. Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm Ph.D, n.d. Web. 17   Aug. 2015.

Zucker, Dr. Ken, Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, and Alex Spiegel. “Q&A: Therapists on Gender Identity Issues in Kids.” NPR. NPR, 7     May 2007. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

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