Have you ever said something to your child that you immediately regretted? Me too.
Have you ever said something and you thought ‘should I have even said that?’ Guilty!
Sometimes, words and phrases slip out at totally the wrong time, in totally the wrong place. I often wonder if my son will carry my words with him into adulthood!
Which is why I am now so conscious about some of the things I say to him.
In this article, I am going to give you a list of things that a parent should think twice about saying to their child.
Table of Contents
- Why Is It Important That Parents Consider The Words We Communicate To Our Kids?
- 15 Things A Parent Should Never Say To Their Child
- ‘You’ll Never Be Able To Do That’
- ‘That’s For Girls/Boys’
- ‘I Have To…’
- ‘You Make Me So Cross’
- ‘Your Hobby Is Rubbish’
- ‘I’ll Do It’
- ‘Don’t Be Scared’
- ‘Calm Down’
- ‘Stop Crying’
- ‘Be Careful’
- ‘I’m Really Disappointed In You’
- ‘I Don’t Love You/You Were A Mistake’
- Conclusion – Kids Never Forget!
Why Is It Important That Parents Consider The Words We Communicate To Our Kids?
Have you ever got someone’s back up just by talking?
Do you ever wonder why people respond negatively to either what you say or how you say it?
Are those people sometimes your children?
I can confirm that it’s with what you are saying, or how you are saying it. What about those things parents should never say to their kids?
It’s vital in your child’s life that their mistakes or learning curves are met with empathy and understanding. You need to allow for room for thought, and emotional digestion if you are to see your child grow and become resilient the world around them.
They need to remember how you felt about them in a positive and supportive way if they are to believe in themselves.
15 Things A Parent Should Never Say To Their Child
Have you ever said something to your child you wished you hadn’t said? Maybe you were the child once, who had hurtful things said to them. There are so many things a parent should never say to their child, with more effective ways to get your point across rather than being spiteful and furthering upset or pain.
Here is a list of 15 things a parent should never say to their child, together with alternative approaches to utilize certain situations and help them in their learning journey, no matter their age.
‘You’ll Never Be Able To Do That’
Cutting off your child’s ability supply before they have even had a chance to prove that they are able to achieve something, is a form of control. No matter how small or flippant your comment, and no matter how old your child is, they will believe you.
This will result in them stepping away from something and ‘not bothering.’ You’ll Never Be Able To Do That is a really flippant and psychologically damaging phrase you can offer your child at a time they have come to you and told you something they really want.
A great alternative would be to say, ‘That’s a great idea! Have you thought about how you could do this?’
Encourage your kids to do what makes them happy. It’s how they build their identity and how they build strong relationships with their own likes and dislikes.
‘That’s For Girls/Boys’
This phrase is getting less and less popular by the day. As you can imagine, in the world we live in, it is becoming beyond unacceptable to tell children what they can or cannot play with based on gender.
Little children, in particular, are not drawn to toys for anything other than,’ Wow! Bright shiny toy!’ – taking something away from them, or refusing them access to it because you think it isn’t for them, limits their creativity and suppresses and old belief that toys are suited to genders.
Children are far happier when they have an open toy box.
As they get older, they will zone in on the toys they love and focus on good experiences or enjoyment levels they feel when in the midst of play. If that happens to be with a toy doll or an action man figure, then what’s the problem?
‘I Have To…’
Oh, you have to? Do you have to go to the supermarket? Have to do the dishes? Have to clean the car?
Nobody is forcing you to do those things at that exact time. If you tell yourself or our child that you have to do something, it gives them the impression that all fun must be zapped from this task when in fact, cleaning a car can be fun, just like a trip out.
‘I have to’ can easily be replaced with, ‘I’m about to.’ ‘I’m about to head to the supermarket. Shall we go and see what we can have for dinner?’ ‘I’m about to go wash the car, did you want to come and make sure I don’t miss a spot?’
Changes in our wording can take the dullness out of a task. It isn’t wise to teach your kids the effort needed to keep things ship-shape in the house. Take pride, and they will too.
‘You Make Me So Cross’
Hard not to throw in a phrase or two during a heated moment between your child and you, but ‘you make me so cross’ is probably up there with the worst.
So your child has done something that you aren’t proud of and it has riled you.
We all get riled.
Getting riled isn’t the issue, the issue is how you get your point across in a way that isn’t detrimental to their mental health.
Instead of towering over them like a Disappointed Danny and making them feel ashamed because they briefly stuffed up, why don’t you have a different approach ready next time? It depends on what has made you cross. It could be, ‘Do you think that was a good idea?’ Perhaps you felt they were being rude or unpleasant, so ‘Do you think that was a nice thing to say?’
Anything that gets them thinking about what they said or did to make you feel cross, so that next time it might create a changed ending, is helpful.
‘Your Hobby Is Rubbish’
Way to kick them, right? You see your kid trying to play an instrument or practice dancing. Maybe they begin to see the fun in playing football, or drawing. The list of hobbies are really endless but, ‘Your hobby is rubbish’ will offer the same feeling inside them, whatever they are doing.
What you are unknowingly offering to them is to feel rubbish about the things they like. Why would any parent do that?
If something is ‘alien’ to you like if you never danced in your life but your child is desperate for lessons or tutorials, it isn’t an automatic pass to be negative. The unknown can be a journey you both take.
From passion comes talent, right?
Any passion should be planted. If you stick around to watch it grow, you could see your child in full bloom.
‘I’ll Do It’
Are we all guilty of this one? Your child trying to put a book back on the shelf but it keeps slipping, they are trying their absolute hardest to cut their sausage on their plate but the gravy is swishing around and making a mess. You bite your lip but you can’t help it. You take the knife and fork and you mutter, ‘I’ll do it.’
Great. Well done, Mom. You at the age of 34, can cut a sausage. Aren’t you clever?
Well, guess what? Your 3 year old needs to learn to do it, and you were 3 once. I hate to break it to you, but you probably made a mess too.
It’s hard if you like things done neatly and quickly, to watch your child stumble and stutter their way through learning. That is though, what learning is all about.
We make mistakes, we try different ways to do it before it’s actually done, and we feel good when we do it. By doing things for your kid, you are taking away that good feeling and replacing it with feelings of inadequacy.
Take a deep breath instead, and let them try.
‘Don’t Be Scared’
Have you ever felt scared and been told to not be? Was it like a magic switch? ‘Don’t be scared.’ Oh, OK then! It isn’t that easy, is it? So don’t imagine for a second that your child will find it any easier to simply stop an emotion because you told them to.
Are you playing hide and seek and they feel cautious about entering the dark bathroom? Maybe they are a little older and have a test at school. Whatever the reason, explore it together.
Acts of reassurance such as flicking the bathroom light on and showing your child there is nothing to feel scared about, is far more effective than a simple, ‘Don’t be scared.’ Or if you can see the test is making your child nervous, chat about it.
Take the pressure off with, ‘I am sure you will do your best’ or, ‘You know no matter the result we will love you,’ are all practical ways to encourage alternative thoughts.
The best thing someone can say to you when you are losing it, right? What? You don’t agree?! ‘Calm down’ is as effective as a chocolate fireguard.
I will tell you now that telling your child to calm down when they feel cross does two things. Number one, it will make them even angrier. Number two, you are telling them that being angry is a bad thing.
No emotion is bad, there are just various ways to deal with them.
If your little one is feeling it in a moment of rage, have a look at why. Can they not put the shape in the hole? Are they trying to write their name? Are they struggling with their homework?
Step in and be of practical help. Taking a moment to pause and breathe is a great first step to have a little breathing space.
‘But’ is a fantastic word to use when you offer a compliment and then basically take it all back. ‘Your writing is fantastic, but…’ ‘I love your painting, but…’ I will tell you now, their minds won’t remember the initial words of compliment. They will remember the great big ‘but.’
Replace ‘but’ with ‘and.’ It’s that simple. ‘I love your writing, and you know the more you practice, the easier it will be.’ ‘I love your painting, and your choice of colors is really original.’ Offer productivity instead of discouragement.
Believe me, if it were that simple there would be no sleep-deprived parents out there. We would all be smelling roses as we dance down the street and our relationships with ourselves won’t be based heavily on the inability to soothe our little ones.
Maybe we can’t soothe them because we are too busy saying, ‘Don’t cry’ instead of offering a hug or some time out to feel sad.
When your child is crying, they are not feeling great. Dealing with sadness or tears is far easier when you offer some time and love, as opposed to telling them that it isn’t OK to cry.
How can you fix the issue together? How can you assist in making the tears go away?
Be careful is the ultimate catalyst for anxiety. If your child is about to do something you deem unsafe, there are other ways to deal with this than simply ‘be careful.’ All your children hear is ‘danger! Do not attempt!’ Then in ten years time, after a childhood of ‘be careful’s,’ you will sit and wonder why your kid doesn’t want to take chances.
Alternative ways to encourage your child to think about what they are doing are phrases such as, ‘Have a think about how you will get down from the top if you reach it,’ or, ‘notice how slippery those rocks are.’
Foster awareness, instead of a blanket and vert unhelpful, ‘be careful,’ which quite frankly could mean anything. Instill thought instead of fear.
‘I’m Really Disappointed In You’
‘In you.’ Wow. What a way to kill kids self-esteem. They have ‘failed to meet your expectations’ and don’t you want them to know about it. ‘I’m really disappointed in you’ is a phrase that induces self-blame, criticism and punishment.
Communicating this type of statement will have zero effect on a child’s well being.
Replacing, ‘I am really disappointed in you leaving your toys all over the floor,’ with something like, ‘I am concerned that somebody might step on your toys and hurt their feet. Could you please tidy them up? is just one way of plucking out more constructive words to get your point across rather than flat out negativity.
‘I Don’t Love You/You Were A Mistake’
Does this need an explanation? Anything along the lines of, ‘I don’t love you,’ or, ‘I should have never had kids’ is the single most hurtful thing you can say to your child. It is cutting, direct, and to the point and your child will never forget you saying it and how it made them feel.
This can lead to a varying array of mental health problems and changes of personality including rage and depression.
If you are having a bad day, leave it outside your relationship with your child. There isn’t a ‘better’ way to tell your child you don’t love them. If you are saying it out of spite then you need to give yourself a talking to.
Whatever your issues may be in life, projecting them onto your blameless children, who didn’t ask to be born, is the worst thing you can do. Instead, reach out and see your doctor, who can refer you for counseling.
I’ve always had this issue with the word ‘stupid.’ It isn’t a terrible profanity. There is nothing explicit about the word, but it feels and sounds so incredibly detrimental to a child, especially to use it towards them. ‘You’re so stupid!’ really has no room in anyone’s lives, and solves nothing in situations of anger.
If your child has made a mess or forgot to do something, use that different approach again. Don’t make what they did about them.
Make it about the thing instead. ‘That was a bit of a silly thing to do’ sounds far less personal than ‘You are stupid.’ Instead, you are deflecting the situation to be about the thing and not the person, and you are also choosing a softer choice of words.
Conclusion – Kids Never Forget!
These are the top 15 things you should never say to your child. Like elephants, kids will remember those times you said something that hurt their feelings.
When parents say hurtful things, you can be assured that your child will remember them!
They may not be able to give you specific times and dates, but their response system will store them all up and take away fractions of confidence or self-belief as time goes on.
Isn’t it far better to prevent something preventable?