15 Things Parents Should Stop Saying to Their Children

Some of these may cause more harm than good to your child’s development. 

Boys pouting at kitchen table, being disciplined by mother, rear view

1. “You always …” or “You never …”

Are you guilty of saying any of the following to your children: “you always wake up late”, “you never do your chores”, “you always waste my time”? When you use the phrase “you always…” or “you never…”, your children will become more defensive towards their actions and conversation like this may turn into an argument.

Try this: Instead of saying “you always wake up late”, tell them facts that your children can’t refute like “You’ve been waking up late for the past 3 days and the extra 20 minutes you spent sleeping caused you to be late to school. We need to discuss about this issue”. By citing specific examples and explain to them why it’s important for them to wake up early, you’ll have a more fruitful discussion.

2. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

As a parent, the aim is to coach them to make decisions based on the right values and principles instead of shaming them.

Try this: Process the situation with your children and help them to understand the issues on hand so that they’ll make the right choice in the future.

3. “Good job!”

The sentence “good job” is too general and you have to help your children understand what exactly did they do that was worth praising for.

Try this: For praise to be meaningful, it must be specific like “I appreciate that you’re helping me out with household chores” or “that’s discipline of you to have finish up your homework before it’s due”. The more you acknowledge your children’s good behavior, the more they’ll display that.

4. “Why did you …”

You might complete this sentence by saying: “… hit your brother/sister?” or “… forget to bring your textbook to school?” It’s hard for your children to answer these questions especially when you’re fuming with anger. Your children might even feel accused or threatened in these hostile situations, so naturally their first instinct is to lie to you.

Try this: Keep your cool when confronting your children. Try saying “What happened?” instead. When you’re genuinely concerned with the situation, your children will explain truthfully to you. And who knows, there might be a legitimate reason behind, so don’t jump to conclusion just yet.

5. “What’s wrong with you?”

Asking “What’s wrong with you?” will cause your children to become bitter and withdrawn. It’s as if you’re indicating that there’s something really wrong with them and you don’t want them to feel that way or they’ll grow up lacking self-confident in the things they do.

Try this: To understand your children’s perspective, approach them by saying “What’s going through your mind when you did that”. If you say it calmly, you’ll have a better chance of getting to the root of the problem.

6. “Don’t argue with me.”

You might say this out of frustration, especially when you feel disrespected. But from your children’s point of view, they may not think they’re being disrespectful at all. Sometimes when children try explaining things from their perspective, they don’t realise that they’re being rude. And so, telling them not to argue with you seems unreasonable to them. It’s not that you should tolerate rude behavior, but it’s important to let your children know that their opinion counts.

Try this: The next time your children made a relatively rude remark, maintain your composure and ask gentle questions to get to the heart of how your children feel.

7. “Because I said so.”

This one is a classic. By saying “because I said so”, you’re basically shutting down all the reasoning and giving them no chance at all to understand the issues. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that all children are curious and they want to understand the rationale behind your policies and if they don’t, they won’t follow what you said – at least not willingly.

Try this: Take time to explain the reasons behind your decisions and brainstorm other possible solutions before you say no. Sometimes your children might just come up with ideas that you haven’t even thought of.

8. “I told you so.”

As tempting as it is to say it to your children when they made a mistake that you’d warned them about, don’t. You children probably know that they’ve messed up, so don’t rub it in their face.

Try this: Remind them that you’re there for them and that you love them no matter what. After all, it’s when your children have made mistakes that they need your support and reassurance the most. So give them that.

9. “If I were you …”

A lot of times when parents say this, we meant it to encourage our kids. But when children hear this phrase, they immediately think to themselves “Well, you’re not me!” and proceed to tune out the rest of the advice that you gave.

Try this: The best way to get through to your children is to share your feelings. Talk to them about where you stand on the matter, but make it clear that you want to hear your children’s perspective too.

10. “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister/cousin/friend?”

First of all, don’t compare. But as a parent, it’s so hard not to compare your children with others. When you’re comparing your children with others, you’re actually using you children as benchmarks to assess your own ability as a parent. When you compare, you children might feel as if your love for them is based on their performance and that you’ll love them more if they were more like their siblings or friends.

Try this: Remind your children that you love them equally the same, no matter what they do. Instead of comparing them, try encouraging them to pursue excellence.

11. “I know how you feel.”

Sure, you’ve gone through childhood and adolescence. But just because you’ve gone through a similar experience to your children doesn’t mean you know how they feel. What you’ve experience in your life doesn’t equate to what they’re going through right now and let’s face it, times are different.

Try this: Do your best to see things from your children’s point of view. Step into their shoes for once and listen respectfully when they share their thoughts and feelings.

12. “When I was your age …”

“… I had so many more responsibilities than you.”, “… I had to work for everything I wanted.” or “… I didn’t have all the luxuries that you enjoy today.” That’s like indirectly telling your kids that the difficulties and challenges that they’re facing don’t matter. You intention may be good, but this approach doesn’t work. Children are well too aware that things today are far different from 20, 30 years ago. So don’t expect them to relate to your experiences.

Try this: When you share your experiences, do it such that they understand you better – not as an attempt to coerce them into better behaviour.

13. “I know what’s best for you.”

To quote Ann Landers: “It’s not what you do for your children that matters most. It’s what you teach them to do for themselves.” In other words, parenthood is about helping your children to take full responsibility for their lives. When you say “I know what’s best for you”, you’re exerting your parental authority. But you’re also missing out on an opportunity to let your children take ownership of the situation.

Try this: As long as your children aren’t in physical danger, you should let them make mistakes. That’s the only way they’ll acquire real-world knowledge and wisdom.

14. “There’s no reason to be scared.”

By saying this, you’re invalidating your children’s feelings. Over time, your children may start to suppress their feelings. They may even have trouble expressing their emotions later on in life.

Try this: Instead of telling your children that they shouldn’t feel a certain way, empathise with them. Teach them to label their feelings and acknowledge them. This way, your children will learn to manage their emotions, rather than ignore them.

15. “You’re not living up to your potential.”

Parents say this in the hope of inspiring their children to work harder. But this approach isn’t effective. Why? Because children will internalise the fact that they’re the type who doesn’t “live up to their potential”. They may begin to see this as a permanent trait.

Try this: Offer your children help and support – not harsh criticism. And if you’re unable to get to the root of the issue, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

Source: 16 Keys To Motivating Your Teenager

Photo credit: Getty Image

, , ,