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Ten Phrases Not to Say to Our Kids

June 1, 2017 | by Bluma Gordon

Some things are better left unsaid.

It's the one-liners, the eye-rolls, and the subtle messages that sometimes have the greatest impact on how our kids behave, think and feel about themselves and the world around them. Here are just a couple of one-liners we might find slipping from our tongues from time to time. They’re usually better left unsaid.

1. “I promise.”

Trust is difficult to foster and easy to destroy; promises are easy to make and harder to keep. Instead of using the phrase “I promise”, replace it with a safer phrase like, “I'll try.” Don’t create a situation where we'll will lose a kid’s trust because we were too quick to promise.

2. “Here, I'll do it.”

It’s hard to see a kid struggling with a project and tempting to offer our help. But giving our kids the easy way out is not necessarily the best way out. Let's not rob our kids of the valuable, hard-earned lessons of accountability, responsibility, and hard-work ethics.

3. “You're so smart!”

It’s important to give positive feedback and compliments to our kids, but overpraising can hurt too. Watch what you praise. Overpraising our kids for being smart, beautiful or talented can pressure them to live up to our personal expectations and relays the message that we value inborn attributes over positive behavior and moral integrity. And when you do praise, be specific and genuine.

4. “Why can't you be more like…”

Telling our kids to measure up to anyone but themselves does more harm than good. Every child is and should be perceived as a world of his or her own.

5. “Don't cry.” “It doesn't hurt.” “There's no reason to be afraid.”

Our children should have the license to feel and express pain regardless of our perception or opinion. Telling them they shouldn't feel the way they do invalidates their feelings and gives them the message that they shouldn't trust to their own emotions. Instead let’s validate our kids' feelings while helping them navigate their emotions in a constructive way.

6. “You're making me angry/sad.”

Kids should learn to respect their parents' wishes. But censuring behavior solely by the way it makes us feel and not with an objective sense of right and wrong teaches our kids that we shouldn't do things because they're inherently good or bad, but just because it upsets Mom or Dad.

7. “Don't be so shy/lazy (or another negative term).”

Actions should never define or label our kids. Labeling only gives kids a negative self-image and discourages them from reaching their potential.

8. “Your mother/ father is a…” “You're acting just like your mother/father!”

Ouch. For the sake of family health, let's leave our kids out of spousal discord and stop using them as cables or punching bags to relay or express negativity towards our partners. Learn how to speak to your loved one directly or buy a bona fide punching bag instead.

9. “I do everything for you!”

We have plenty of opportunities to teach our children the virtue of gratitude, but this is probably not one of them. Telling our kids how much we had to for sacrifice them might instill them with resentment or shame, but not more virtuous character traits.

10. “You're driving me crazy!”

Sure, we sometimes feel like that, but saying it obviously hurts our children and doesn’t accomplish anything positive. And no one can drive you crazy, except yourself.

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