We all try our best when it comes to parenting, but sometimes phrases slip out before you even know you’ve said them. However, experts say that what we tell our kids can be extremely influential; so here’s some common phrases you should erase from your vocabulary.
1. “That’s not how you do it.”
As a busy parent, can sometimes be easier to do things yourself. However, children need time to learn new skills. Dr. Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard Center for Toddler Development and author of How Toddlers Thrive, says, “It gives a clear message to the child of ‘I can’t do this, only the grown-ups know how to do it. It actually works against [building] confidence.”
2. “What’s wrong with you?
This phrase may be okay when you are checking in on your child’s wellbeing, however, problems arise when it is said angrily. “When a trusted adult—a person upon whom the child is dependent for everything—indicates that something is wrong with the child, a child will internalize this and believe it.” explains Karyl McBride, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
3. “I don’t know how we’re going to pay the bills”
Life is tough, and sometimes your kids are as good a person to vent to as any. However, young children don’t need to be stressed about their parents’ financial situation. Dr. Brad Klontz, a clinical psychologist, told CBS News, “Don’t give them TMFI: too much financial information. We can’t involve them in things they’re powerless to do anything about.”
4. “You’ll never be any different”
Children should learn from the early stages of their life that anything is possible; hope is the fuel that drives children to be curious and learn new things about themselves. “Statements like these place children in a box of negativity or permanence—suggesting that they are always a certain way, and incapable or unexpected to improve,” suggests Daniel Patterson, author of The Assertive Parent.
5. “You’re okay”
This may seem like something you should say to reassure a child, however, if your child is upset, they are not okay. “Your kid is crying because he’s not okay. Your job is to help him understand and deal with his emotions, not discount them,” says Jenn Berman, PsyD.
6. “You can be anything you want”
Teaching your kids to reach for the stars is, of course, a great thing. However, it’s also important to teach your kids to have realistic goals so that they don’t end up blaming themselves for society’s shortcomings. Psychologist Erica Reishcher wrote, “Telling kids that they can do anything—whether fueled by imagination or hard work—obscures the critical role of chance in success.”
7. “You’re being too sensitive”
It probably took a lot of courage for your child to tell you if something is wrong, so you shouldn’t tell them off for being sensitive. “They will often believe that their sensitivity is the problem and that, in turn, leads them to mistrust both their feelings and perceptions,” explains Peg Streep, author of Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life.
8. “I’m just going to leave you here”
If your child is throwing a tantrum in the middle of a supermarket, it can be tempting to throw this phrase out there as a threat. Dr. L. Alan Sroufe tells The Atlantic that doing this can make them feel less secure in their attachments. It makes them believe you may not always be there to protect and take care of them, the thought that you may leave them alone is very frightening.
9. “Leave me alone!”
Yes, kids can drive you crazy, but telling them this could make them think that you don’t want to spend time with them. Suzette Haden Elgin, PhD explains, “They begin to think there’s no point in talking to you because you’re always brushing them off.”
10. “I do everything for you!”
Okay, it may sometimes feel like your children are being ungrateful. You need to remember, though, that they were most likely too young to appreciate all that you do for them and will show appreciation in their own way. “One of the most damaging things for a child is the un-lived life of a parent.” explains Brad M. Reedy PhD, author of The Journey of The Heroic Parent.
11. “You did great, but why can’t you do that all the time?”
“When a compliment is immediately followed by a ‘but’, it places the focus on the negative instead of the positive. All the positive reinforcement, self-esteem boost, and motivation gained from the compliment are lost as soon as ‘but’ is uttered,” explains Adelle Cadieux, a pediatric psychologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
12. “You make me so mad!”
Don’t lash out at your children when you’re mad. “The number one job of a parent is to stay calm no matter what happens. Aside from the fact that we usually say things we later regret when we’re angry or frustrated, staying calm also models for our children how we want them to behave.” Explains Timothy Gunn, a clinical psychologist.
13. “Don’t eat that or you’ll get fat”
Don’t give your kids a complex about their weight forma young age, this can be really damaging. When it comes to getting kids to eat a healthy diet, the science is clear: focus on the benefits and delicious taste of healthy food, not on negative perceptions of their weight. Commenting at all on weight only worries kids and hurts their self-esteem.
14. “You’re fat”
“Children who are overweight or obese can benefit from nutritional changes; but calling a child fat is hurtful and does nothing in providing guidance for how to slim down,” says Kimber Shelton, psychologist. Also, some kids are just carrying puppy fat so don’t give them a complex from a young age or impress your own body insecurities on them.
15. “I need to go on a diet”
This teaches kids about diet culture from a young age. Kids need to be sheltered from some things for as long as possible, and the toxic diet culture that exists in our society can lead to serious issues. Your child sees you as the most beautiful, amazing human who has ever lived — and they want to grow up to be just like you!
16. ” I smoked when I was a kid”
“Saying that you used drugs as a kid validates the use of drugs for your own children. Your children will model their behavior based upon yours – if you’re not educated enough to explain to your kids why taking drugs is dangerous, don’t give them tacit license to use because you did,” says Dennis Poncher, author and founder of the support group network Because I Love You.
17. “Stop crying”
Children feel big feelings too, and although you might think they are upset over something silly, it is a big deal to them. “It’s important to allow children to cry and show their emotions and frustrations. They need to know it is okay to feel happy, sad, angry, or whatever.” says Richard Peterson, the vice president of education for Kiddie Academy.
18. “It’s not that big of a deal”
“Even if something isn’t a big deal to you, it can be a big deal to your child. Telling them that it isn’t invalidates and shames them for their emotions. Not only are they then upset about the original issue, but they’re ashamed or embarrassed about how upset they are on top of that. These comments never ever help anyone.” Explains Rebecca Schrag Hershberg, PhD.
19. “Calm down!”
They aren’t acting that way just because they feel like it. “If they would, they could! You can never get through to a child when they’re throwing a tantrum. Instead, the best thing to do is remain calm yourself, don’t take the bait, and be patient while validating their feelings,” says Denise Daniels, parenting and child development expert.
20. “You’re fine”
“What may look like a small thing to you — a scrape, a broken crayon, a lost toy — really is a big thing to your child. It’s easy to get annoyed and brush it off, but you should take it seriously,” Daniel Patterson suggests. Your kids are learning how to express emotions properly, so don’t shoot them down when they are upset.
21. “You’re so lazy”
“Children are not lazy. Often, there’s an underlying reason as to why they aren’t able to accomplish what’s being asked of them. Parents attack a child’s self-esteem and self-worth with this statement. And let’s face it, none of us have ever been motivated to do better by being called lazy,” says Stacey Haynes, a child psychologist.
22. “Hurry up and get ready”
This phrase is said daily by thousands of parents, however, how beneficial is it really to getting things moving? “It doesn’t usually get anything done faster, except for making children feel more stressed,” says Ariel Kornblum, a child psychologist in New York. “It’s better to be specific about what needs to happen next.”
23. “Why do I have to tell you everything 100 times?”
It can sometimes feel like you are talking to a brick wall when your kids are being stubborn, but this phrase can make them feel stupid. “If you have to endlessly repeat yourself ,then you need to rethink your communication strategy. Nagging never works; kids have very selective listening and they’ll tune you right out.” says Daniel Patterson.
24. “Big boys / girls don’t get scared”
Children of all ages get scared, putting this pressure on them to not be afraid of things only encourages them to hide how they feel. Of course, you can teach your children to put on a brave face in certain situations, but also teach them that it’s okay to be scared.
25. “Stop being such a baby”
You can’t expect kids to act like adults… because they’re not adults. “If a child is doing a behavior that seems babyish, look at the situation,” says Daniels, a child pyschologist. “Often they revert to old behaviors when they’re nervous, anxious, or scared. Instead of shaming them, listen to their feelings.”
26. “You’re being ridiculous”
Don’t make your children feel silly for coming to you with their concerns or worries. Children look to adults to validate their feelings and experiences, so when you dismiss them it makes them feel like they don’t matter. If you don’t understand why you child is doing something, ask them, and then try and remember an experience when you were in a similar situation.
27. “Stop being so selfish”
Young children don’t have the capacity to act out of selfishness, and if they are, they probably don’t realise they are doing it. Explain the situation to them kindly if you feel that their behaviour is negatively impacting someone else. Don’t teach a child to deny their own needs from a young age.
28. “I’m disappointed in you”
This remark calls in your expectations of your children, which can often be unrealistic or damaging. “Trying to make them responsible for your disappointment only adds to their pain,” says Lisa Cavallaro, author of No More Drama: How to Make Peace With Your Defiant Kid.
29. “You’re making me sad”
“Children are not responsible for their parents’ emotional well-being! Parents are responsible for their children’s well-being, not the other way around,” Hershberg says. “While it’s important for children to understand that their behavior affects other people, it’s developmentally inappropriate to ask that they act a certain way out of a sense of responsibility for their parents’ feelings.”
30. “You better do what I say, or else”
It can be really stressful trying to discipline your kids all the time, but adding threats like “or else” onto the end of your sentences can be really scary and confusing for children. Don’t scare them into listening to you, work on ways that you can better communicate with your children without threatening them.
31. “Don’t make me turn this car around”
If you’ve ever driven with unruly kids in the car, you’ll know it can be pretty stressful. “Taking things away, telling the other parent, and other threats are often default discipline techniques. But when a parent sets a limit, they should always be prepared to follow through, so don’t threaten anything you won’t actually do.” Kornblum says.
32. “It’s my way or the highway”
Although you are there to discipline your kids, it doesn’t mean that you need to throw your power around all the time. Try and work out a way that both you and your child can be happy in order to create a more harmonious living situation. It will just make everyone’s lives easier in the long run,
33. “I turned out fine”
Everyone’s parenting style is influenced by the way they were raised, but’s it’s important to remember that times have changed since you were a child. When it comes to parenting, it’s more important to understand the needs of your child then it is to raise them the exact same way you were raised, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology.
34. “I hate when you do that”
“This often comes out when parents are at their wit’s end. Parents may think these criticisms are benign, but what the child often misses the ‘when’ and just hears ‘I hate you’ instead. The line between when they’re ‘likeable’ and not becomes too blurred,” says Crystal Rice, a licensed social worker, child therapist, and consultant at Insieme Consulting.
35. “Shame on you”
Young children don’t understand shame, suggests a study done by the University of Michigan. Even worse, shame may lead to older children being defiant and aggressive. Children will feel ashamed of bad things they do on their own, they don’t need you to add to this.
36. “You’re just like your mother / father”
This is often a phrase used by divorced parents, or parents that aren’t together, to pit one parent against the other. “This would be a good thing if followed by something positive, but too often this is said when the child is exhibiting a behavior one parent finds unfavorable in the other parent,” Ms. Rice says.
37. “I told you so”
“Bragging about what we know is never helpful to children. They get to learn from their own mistakes just like we did,” Cavallaro says. Of course you know better, you have had a lifetime of learning that your children still have ahead of them. Let them make mistakes without feeling guilty.
38. “I know you didn’t mean to…”
“Yes, they did! When we’re angry, hitting the person we’re angry with may be an instinctive reaction and may feel good in the moment,” Hershberg says. “As parents, we need to teach children the skills to regulate their reactions and cope with strong emotions in more productive ways, while also acknowledging these feelings are real.”
39. “I wish you were more like your brother/sister”
“Every child has strengths and challenges that are unique to them. Children should not be compared to others, but reminded that their differences are just part of being human,” says Kornblum. Don’t pit your kids against each other, they are all wonderful and unique.
40. “You’re my perfect little angel”
Your child is not perfect, no one is. Children will mess up and make mistakes and they need to be taught the difference between right and wrong so that they grow up to be balance and empathetic people. A study published in Psychological Science also suggested that perceptions of being perfect mean that a child is less likely to take risk for fear of failure.