9 Common Phrases Parents Should Put To Rest (And What To Say Instead)

  • Often, the most challenging part of parenting is learning to choose the right words when speaking to your children

    • Everything a parent does yields a strong psychological effect on the kids, and it is vital to remember that the way you choose to speak to them will act as a building block towards their personality. 

      As parents, there are times when unpleasant circumstances drive us to say things that we don't really mean. However, we need to remember to keep our emotions under control and only say constructive things that are meant to teach kids the lessons they need to learn.
  • Here are some phrases that need to be shelved once and for all, with suggested alternatives on how to respond to the kids instead:

    • 1. Instead of saying "Wait until Mum / Dad finds out about this!"...

      • This does two things. First, it creates anxiety and fear in the child, especially of the person who you are going to tell about whatever happened. Second, it shows you're dodging the responsibility to deal with the issue at hand by passing it to someone else.
    • Try “Do you want to tell Mum / Dad, or should I explain it to him / her?”

      • Choose whether your spouse really needs to know about the issue, and if yes, let the child decide who will tell them. Let your children take ownership of their mistakes and their actions, but do it respectfully.
    • 2. Instead of saying "You need to start watching what you eat!"

      • When you talk to your children about weight, focus on health and behaviour rather than numbers or appearance, says Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. "While obesity certainly can carry health risks, people truly do come in different sizes, and some heavy people may be fit, just as some thin people may not be fit." In other words, some of us are naturally rounder or heavier than others, and that's okay - a concept that we must actively pass along to our kids if we want them to have healthy attitudes about food and their body.
    • Try "I know you like ice cream, but eating too much is not good for you."

      • Parents can deny certain junk food requests, like ice cream and candy, by offering a healthier alternative. This way, your kid still gets a treat, but it's a better option.
    • 3. Instead of saying “Why can’t you be more like your brother / sister?”...

      • This is a pitfall for parents, especially when you have one child who acts out and one who behaves fairly reasonably. When you use this kind of comparison, it’s hurtful and also pits your children against each other. You are tapping directly into sibling rivalry and fanning the flames between your kids. Remember, they are unique and each of them have their good qualities.
    • Remind your children that you love them equally the same, no matter what they do

      • Kids are very fragile. They can misunderstand your attention towards the other kids very easily and might get a fear of insecurity. Instead of comparing them, try encouraging them to pursue excellence. Spend time to understand each of your children's issues and specific needs.
    • 4. Instead of saying "Why did you do that?" (or even worse, "What were you thinking?")...

      • Expect your child to be a bit impulsive. Their developing decision-making skills means they may not always know the reason behind their actions, and that's one reason they may have that blank look when you ask this question.
    • Try "What did you hope would happen? What will you do next time?"

      • It's best not to use "why" with children. Chances are they won't know. Instead, use "what" to get them thinking. Doing so will not stop their "I don't know" response, but it might get them to think before they act. It might even encourage them to learn what to do the next time.
    • 5. Instead of saying "Don't talk back to me!"...

      • Children are programmed to question, analyse, and wonder about situations, and this can sometimes present itself in an argumentative manner. Without an explanation, your child sees no reason to stop the behaviour or action that you reprimanded them for.
    • Try "I know you want my answer to be different, but it will not change."

      • You can also make sure the child fully understands your response by saying, “I just told you my answer. Do you have a question about it?” This allows the child to present their opinion or get clarification. Either way, the child is allowed to express their thoughts or concerns and feel validated without an argument.
    • 6. Instead of saying "Practice makes perfect"...

      • It's true that the more time your child devotes, the sharper their skills will become. However, this adage can ramp up the pressure they feels to win or excel. "It sends the message that if you make mistakes, you didn't train hard enough," says Joel Fish, Ph.D., author of 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent. "I've seen kids beat themselves up, wondering, 'What's wrong with me? I practice, practice, practice, and I'm still not the best.'"
    • Try "Wow, you worked really hard on that!"

      • Instead, encourage your child to work hard because they'll improve and feel proud of their progress. By focusing on the effort, rather than the result, you’re letting a child know what really counts.
      • When a child is faced by one failed attempt after another, it is normal for them to be discouraged and start feeling like abandoning the challenge at hand. At times like these, it's best to teach them one of life's most important lessons: never give up! When your child says, "I can't do it!", remind them even the best fail before they succeed, and the only way to learn anything is by making mistakes and continuing to try.
    • 7. Instead of saying "Why didn't you just say no?"

      • The need to "fit in" is huge and peer pressure can be overwhelming. It's tough to stand up to your peers, but even more so during these years. Telling them to "Just say no!" is hardly helpful; what they need is actual strategies to counter the pressure.
    • Try "It's tough to say no to a friend. Have you tried...?"

      • Offer strategies by brainstorming together during a relaxed time. Think of things they could say the next time their friends push them to do something they don't feel comfortable doing. You could give them ideas like, "I have to get home and do my homework or my parents will not allow me to go out this weekend."
    • 8. Instead of saying “When I was your age”...

      • Saying “I had a lot more responsibilities than you” or "I never had all the luxuries that you enjoy today” is indirectly telling your kids that the difficulties and challenges they’re facing don’t matter.
    • Understand that things today are far different from your childhood all those years ago, making it difficult for children to relate to your experiences

      • When you share your experiences with your children, do it with the objective of making them understand you better, not as an attempt to coerce them into better behaviour.
    • 9. Instead of saying "Why are you so sensitive?"

      • Children should feel safe when it comes to expressing their emotions. Telling your child not to shed a tear implies that there is something wrong with it, when it's completely normal.
      • Hint: Don't tease; they will take it personally. Watch your non-verbal cues, such as smirks or raised eyebrows. Children are overly sensitive to these expressions and may read more into them than you think. Also, never tease or discipline your kid in front of a peer. You're guaranteed to get big-time resistance and a turn-off.
    • Try "I can see you're upset. Do you want to talk about it?"

      • Respect where your child is coming from. Rather than deny that your child feels a particular way, acknowledge the emotion up front. By naming the real feelings that your child has, you'll encourage them to express themselves, and show what it means to be empathetic.
    • It's perfectly understandable that in a moment of frustration, finding the right words don't always come easily

      • When at a loss for words, you can give these methods a try:

        Take a deep breath: this will make you feel less tense and the pause will give you time to stop yourself from saying things you don't mean.

        Refocus: Learn how to refocus your child on the task at hand and don’t let their words derail you or bring you down to their maturity level.

        Replace your words with an action: Recognize that if you’ve gotten to the point where you’re about to blurt something out that you may regret, it’s a sign that you should leave the argument altogether and discuss again when everyone's calmer.
    • Ultimately, one of the most important lessons parents can equip their child with is to never give up. When things get tough, it's vital for kids to keep sight of what's important, and strive for their goals. #nevergiveup, and nothing can stop them from being the champions they truly are.


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