Inside: 10 Parenting Phrases You’ll Need To Absolutely Avoid.

No one said that being a parent was easy and some would argue it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. My wife and I had our first daughter just before the Millennium in early December 1999. We took her home from the hospital wrapped up tight like a cocktail frank and stared at her in amazement. Look at what we created!

As she got older and we began parenting the amazement began to turn into fear as we began navigating this new life as a family. We questioned everything we said. Were we too hard on her, should we have worded our conversation differently? I imagined her lying on a therapist’s couch years from now spilling her guts as to why her mom and dad have “made her” the way she is.

As we navigate this life as parents even the most off the cuff remark can cause inner stress for a child now and years later. For this reason, we need to be careful about how we speak to our children and the parenting phrases that we use.

10 Parenting Phrases You'll Need To Absolutely Avoid

You’re ok

The initial reaction when our child hurts themself physically or gets hurt emotionally is to tell them that they’re ok. Your child is crying because they are not ok. Your job as a parent is to understand why they are crying and to help them feel better – not to use a parenting phrase that undermines their feelings. Instead, hug them and acknowledge their feelings.

You're ok

You’re ok

 

I’m on a diet

Body image starts early in life. If you’re on a diet keep it to yourself. If children see us constantly stepping on the scale and hearing announcements that you’re “fat” he/she may develop a self-image problem. Choose better parenting phrases such as “I’m working out because I like the way it makes me feel”.  Inspire your children to be fit with you but don’t make it sound like a chore or a punishment to eat healthily and workout. And never ask them if you look fat!

I'm on a diet

I’m on a diet

 

 

Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother

No one wants to be compared to anyone else especially comparisons within a family. Sibling rivalry is ok to a degree but don’t “pit” your children against one another and make one feel less loved.

Why can't you be more like your sister/brother

Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother

 

Be a big girl/boy

Some children take longer to develop emotionally than others. It’s not easy to just turn on or off the ability to be a big boy or girl if they haven’t developed enough yet to do so. Now if your 40 year old is crying uncontrollably it’s a different story and you may find some other parenting phrases for that!

Be a big girl/boy

Be a big girl/boy

 

 

You don’t mean that

Kids will say they hate you, their teacher, their sister/brother when they are young…or teenagers. They don’t mean it but saying “you don’t mean that” invalidates your children’s feelings. Instead, ask them why they feel that way and talk to them rationally.

You don't mean that

You don’t mean that

 

 

Because I said so

When I was young “because I said so” was the be all-end all statement my parents used. It stopped an argument and answered my requests and questions.   Using this tactic does not work. ‘Because I said so’ doesn’t provide a reason. It instead lets your child know that you don’t feel like listening to them any longer or are just plain tired of hearing them ask. Instead, provide a real reason as to why.

Because I said so

Because I said so

 

That happened to me and I’m ok

Just because you experienced something similar as a child and “came out alright” doesn’t mean that your child should. You can’t expect your child to react in the same way that you did “when you were their age”. Everyone is different and thus react differently to all sorts of situations.

That happened to me and I'm ok

That happened to me and I’m ok

 

Stop overreacting

The natural reaction when your child is screaming in public is to try to calm them down. I’ve been “that guy” before. If you’ve ever been on an airline there is inevitably one person who has to ask you if you can stop your child from crying. “No sir, I plan on having them cry and scream the entire flight. That’s how I prefer to fly”. The problem is that your child’s reaction may seem like an overreaction to you but to the child, it’s not. Instead of using this parenting phrase ask what is bothering them and why they feel this way. The video below from comedian Brian Regan provides a great analysis.

 

 

You’re doing that wrong

We are all eager as parents to teach our children, and have them do things correctly but part of life and growing is failure and learning how to overcome and correct “on the fly”. Telling them you’re doing it wrong doesn’t teach them anything. Instead it instills negative thoughts. Imagine if someone always told you that you were wrong. How eager would you be to continue trying?

You're doing that wrong

You’re doing that wrong

 

 

Don’t make me repeat myself

Parenting is all about repeating yourself. It’s not the worst thing in the world to have to repeat yourself. Using this parenting phrase without any repercussions is useless. By asking them to not make you repeat yourself you are repeating yourself. Instead try, “could you do this the first time I ask so we don’t get to this point”?

Don't make me repeat myself

Don’t make me repeat myself

Without a real strategy for handling a situation, we resort to these often useless parenting phrases which don’t help the child and often make the problem worse. If you’d like to help avoid your child winding up on a psychiatrist’s couch one day focusing on you, try your best to eliminate these parenting phrases from your vocabulary.

What phrases did you hear as a child or think you should eliminate from your parenting phrase vocabulary immediately? Let me know in the comments below.

9 Comments

  1. Despite Pain

    These are all great points. Words can have a lasting impact on a child, so it really is important to think before speaking. ‘Because I said so,’ isn’t really a good explanation for doing or not doing something. It is just authoritarian. Actually explaining why will probably give better results.

    Reply
  2. Kelly Martin

    I totally agree. I think it’s important to let kids decide how they feel about a situation and not tell them how they should think and feel or compare them to others.

    Reply
  3. Chloé Arnold

    Yikes- I totally say you’re ok. Although I do try to follow up by helping him understand why he is crying (scared, hurt, upset, etc). Definitely going to try working on this though. thanks!

    Reply
  4. Britt K

    While many of these phrases were common when we were growing up, times have changed. We have a much better understanding now of how invalidating a child’s opinion can impact their ability to understand and express their feelings as they get older. I love the alternatives that you’ve suggested – a great starting point for parents that are looking to make a shift in their own homes.

    Reply
  5. Sonia Seivwright

    I agree with all the points. At the end of the way, we are parents and it’s our job to guide and protect our kids. We should also be prepared to talk with an open mind to be able to understand our children’s behaviour.

    Reply
  6. Lyosha

    I don’t have kids but I reading your input I totally agree with you. I will try to avoid it once I’m a parent

    Reply
  7. Ivana Mearns

    A great list. It’s scary how often you hear all these phrases from parents, I guess everybody is just too busy to take a minute to think about what they say and what impact their words can have on their kids. I hope that your article will be read by many parents and will transform the lives of their little ones.

    Reply
  8. Erica (The Prepping Wife)

    Dear god, I hate the phrase “you don’t mean that” with the utmost passion on the planet. Until I cut my mother out of my life a couple of years ago, she still said that to me, and in a scolding tone. I’ve always sworn that if I ever say that to someone, my time on this planet has officially come to an end. I can’t think of a worse thing to say to a kid, or even an adult. Now that you have triggered horrible repressed childhood memories, and I’m headed to the therapist (just kidding, I’m laughing right now), I will say that I agree with these statements. I read this wondering which ones I would probably say, and because I said so would be my big one. I said it, that’s it, I rule the planet, and my say is it. I remember saying it to my nephew more than once, actually.

    Reply
    • Scott DeNicola

      I’ve heard a few cringe-worthy ones myself as a child. Every now and then I catch myself about to repeat something my mom used to say and stop.

      Reply

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