25 Things NOT To Say To Your Kids
“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children,” wrote John Steinbeck in East of Eden.
Boy, does it ever! We need courage to love, to lead, and to nurture. Sometimes we need courage just to make it through the day.
Most difficult of all is finding the courage to admit when we are wrong. Often, we say things out of habit, frustration, or even good intentions that just aren’t helpful. We can’t take our words back – but we can stop saying them now.
Here are 25 things that your child does not need to hear from you:
“Don’t be sad/mad/upset.”
We can’t help the way we feel. Teach your child do work through their emotions rather than denying them.
“You’re a much better reader than Kevin!”
Don’t encourage your child to compare themselves to their friends. Help them focus on their own growth. They don’t need to validate themselves at the expense of others.
“You’re my perfect angel!”
This makes your child believe that you expect perfection from them. According to an Ohio State University study, this can lower your child’s self-esteem and promote a fear of failure. Instead, love them in their imperfection.
“Why can’t you be more like Claire?”
Your child is unique, wonderful, and special. Encourage them to be the best version of themselves – not a second-rate copy of somebody else.
“I can’t say no to you, sweetheart!”
Children need boundaries to feel safe and develop good behavioral skills. Don’t be afraid to discipline your child.
“I know you didn’t mean to kick your brother.”
Um, yes they did. Find out why.
“I told you so.”
How do you like to hear this as an adult? If you have the opportunity to say this phrase, there’s a good chance your child has already learned from their mistake.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”
According to a University of Michigan study, children who are shamed become defiant and aggressive.
“This is how we’ve disciplined children in this family for generations. I turned out just fine.”
The idea that something has always been done a certain way is NOT a good reason to keep doing it.
“As long as you live here, you will live by my rules.”
Your child might take you up on this threat and run away. If they stay, they will feel trapped and unwelcome in their own home.
“Don’t make me cancel Christmas/turn this car around/send you to military school!”
When you make threats you cannot or will not enforce, you undermine your own credibility.
“Because I said so!”
If your child asks about a rule, take the time to explain it to them. Would you follow a rule you didn’t agree with or understand?
“You’re making me angry/sad/frustrated.”
Your child is not responsible for your emotions. This phrase teaches them to shift responsibility for their emotional state on to others, rather than working through negative feelings on their own.
“Ugh, what do you need NOW?”
Teach your children that their needs are important. This will help them become adults who take care of themselves.
“You’re acting like a baby.”
Is your child anxious? Nervous? Overwhelmed? Scared? Frustrated? Don’t shame them. Help them to work through their feelings.
“Big kids aren’t afraid to do that.”
Don’t invalidate your child’s fears. Instead, be an ally in conquering them.
This phrase is very common, but ineffective. It doesn’t make children move faster. It only stresses them out.
It’s up to your child to decide if they feel okay or not.
“Calm down. It’s not a big deal.”
It might not be a big deal to you – but it is to your child. If you want them to share the big stuff with you when they’re older, you need to listen to the little stuff now. To them, it’s all important.
Children need to express their feelings. Don’t teach them to bottle up their emotions.
“Eat your broccoli. It’s healthy!”
According to researchers at the University of Chicago, this reinforces the idea that healthy foods don’t taste good. Don’t make a chore of eating nutritious meals. Make vegetables tasty and fun instead.
“I can’t eat that. I need to lose weight.”
We all have issues with our body image – but we don’t need to share them with our children. Set an example of self-acceptance instead.
“Too much ice cream will make you fat.”
Keep the emphasis on health and happiness, rather than looks. Your children are beautiful exactly as they are.
“It was great that you scored a goal today. Maybe next time you’ll score two!”
Celebrate success. Don’t minimize it by expecting more.
“You were so nice today. Why can’t you be like this all the time?”
Don’t take the victory away from them. Praise good behavior without turning it into a backhanded compliment.
“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands,” wrote Anne Frank.
We do the best we can. We work hard to send our children along the correct roads in life, and eventually to forge their own.
We cannot control the destination. We can only hope to fill them with wisdom, love, and respect to take along the way.