There are numerous guides – books filled with advice, YouTube videos and classes, to help you understand what is to be expected when you bring your little miracle into the world.
Yet, one aspect of parenting most people often feel so unprepared for, is learning how to speak to your child. There are things you should never say to your child but learning to communicate through the difficult, growing and challenging times is important.
We all know frustration in our own lives, and the way we communicate these frustrations to other adults is not how you communicate them to children. There are things you should never say to your child but let’s look at why.
Looking at the most common phrases we use, we’ll see how they could negatively impact your child. It is important to remember that the tone and approach you use is the most critical factor when talking with your child – we can’t all be prepared to deal with a situation perfectly when it arises. For most of us, this is a first-time learning curve!
Things You Should Never Say to Your Child
01Finish your food
Learning to manage your eating habits is one of the first things we try and teach children. From bottle to real utensils we are teaching our kids how to eat respectfully, cleanly and hopefully, nutritionally!
When the moment arises that you yell, ‘Finish your food!’ whether it be because you are exhausted or frustrated – maybe they are throwing a fit, or their food, maybe you had a long day and don’t like the meal either – you are not addressing the problem and this phrase becomes one of the things you should never say to your child.
What to do from here depends on whether: they are satisfied with how much they did eat, do they like the flavors/textures of the dish, are they allergic (hopefully not!), did they have a big lunch?
Saying, ‘Finish your food’ is not damaging if you are asking them to simply, finish their food. The damage occurs if you are constantly telling your child to finish their plate, and not finding out why they aren’t in the first place.
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02You are perfect
The world is a hard and judgemental place and when you are looking at your kid, filled with the love only a parent can know, sometimes you just want to reassure them that they are in fact, perfect. Inherently, telling your child that you think they are perfect isn’t one of the things you should never say to your child.
The concern is when boundaries are not set around that self-esteem boost. If you feel that your child is avoiding challenges, talking back at you or other adults, or other children for that matter, then their sense of worth may be… overinflated.
Be cautious though because you don’t want to correct your mistake by damaging them further, when you ‘take them down a notch’. Remember, communication is key so explain that perfection is a matter of opinion and find ways to look at what that can mean to others.
Comparison is the thief of joy, and if a child’s development is always negatively contrasted with someone perceived as better, then they are not establishing a valid baseline for performance.
What expectations do you have of them? Do you have unspoken hopes pinned on their success in a specific domain? Can you forgive them if they do not obtain that success?
Children are dynamic, learning, growing and have so much to discover. Help them find what they do excel at. Specifically, asking why they aren’t more like their sibling, is one of the things you should never say to your child.
Try to understand why you feel they aren’t achieving what their sibling is, and if there is something you can do to help instead of criticizing.
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04I could do this perfectly at your age
While similar to point three, this is one of the things you should never say to your child because you are their first idol.
Everything they are trying to do is based on what you are doing. If you had already achieved perfection, then what does that imply about their abilities?
Having emphasized how important tone and context are, it is important to note that your intention is what drives your response.
Separate yourself from them and help them find interests and hobbies that bolster their confidence while also teaching them that each person has their own strengths.
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05What is wrong with you
This is an example of where tone is the only differentiation between sounding condescending and aggressive, and genuinely concerned. Context is also important.
If you are asking the question because they are not walking fast, stuttering, or having trouble working out a complicated thought, well – then you sound like a bully.
If, on the other hand, you have noticed they aren’t having a good day, or they aren’t playing with a friend as often, asking ‘What’s wrong with you’ can lead to a discussion.
Asking what is wrong, if your aim isn’t to help, is definitely one of the things you should never say to your child.
Children are the definition of change. The amount of basic and intellectual learning they do on a daily basis, how they learn to adapt and become independent affirms how dynamic they are.
This is one of the things to never say to your child because it damages a budding ego, a sense of confidence and self-worth. Do not limit any part of their growth, including the ability to do so.
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07I don’t know how we will be able to afford [X]
Financial matters that relate to how you, as the adult, will manage to run the house are no concern of your childs’. Having no money can translate to being unstable, unsecure and give your child the impression that something bad is going to happen to the family.
If your household operates on a budget, then you can find ways to bring the child in without exposing them to the stress of adult concerns.
If they want a toy outside a gift-giving season (birthday, holidays) ask them to help you do some things around they house. Bottom line, financial matters fall into the category of things you should never say to your child unless it is a beneficial lesson.
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08You make me feel sad when you behave this way/bring home these school results
Teaching your child to understand and be aware of others’ feelings starts at a young age.
We all hope to raise sensitive, kind individuals but when you bestow your negative emotions on their actions, you are not helping them learn. Guilt is an effective motivator, it is long-lasting and spreads to other thoughts.
The central difference in this lesson is whether you are teaching about disappointment (i.e.. You have been trying to raise their grades by working with them at home, they have done so well at home, and yet somehow, they came home with a bad grade.)
Telling them that this make you sad does not allow them to express how they feel, and it doesn’t give them hope.
If you express disappointment that both of your efforts seemed to not have been enough, but it’s more important that you keep trying together is the lesson they should walk away with.
Gratitude is taught, so if your child does not show proper respect then you need to think of a new way to address the issue.
Telling them they are characterized by any negative behaviour is something you should never say to your child. Why? Because without something to strive for (better behaviour) and a reason they should do it (easier to ‘get what they want’) there is literally no reason they should aim to do better.
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10You are the man of the house
Being a single mother is one of the top most-stressful jobs there is to have. It is understandable that you want to look to your eldest, especially if they are a boy, and tell them that you rely on them when you aren’t around.
In some instances, it is ok to say this, if you do not actually put the responsibility on them. Some boys naturally have a sense of pride and ownership or responsibility towards their mothers.
Teaching them to be respectful, kind and patient in these instances is important. Being a man of the house can mean doing the dishes or making sure he does well in school.
In other instances, in addition to dealing with an absent parent, it can lead to intense feelings of self-doubt, stress, and sense of overwhelming responsibility.
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11That was/ You are stupid
One of the common themes throughout this article is that children are learning. Telling them that what they are doing is stupid, whether it be creative, an expression or just for fun, is hurtful. Period.
It makes them start questioning if their ideas are valid. If you tell them that they are stupid, they will believe it.
People with low self-worth are at higher risk of drug addiction, mental illness and social inequalities so give your child the best chance by making sure they feel confident and special.
This statement is usually only made in extreme situations. Learning to parent, learning to be the better person when growing with your child is extremely difficult.
Whether or not you did struggle with the decision to have them, is your issue alone. Your child never had a say, so do not make them feel guilty for existing.
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Remember, your intention is what determines whether what you are saying is one of the things you should never say to your child.
No person has gone through life without an instance where we wish we had been treated better, had kinder words used, or more understanding given to the situation. Think about how hard it would be to understand the true meaning behind what you are wanting to say.
Speaking to children requires honesty, but also a straightforward approach. Don’t be scared to use less language in order to make sure they understand that you are always, only, trying to help.