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Things you should never say to your child

What not to say to our children

Almost every parent – unless that parent was a Saint – was mad at their child at least once, and said things that they regretted later and wished they could take back. Kids don’t come with a manual! We, parents, wish to become the perfect mom and dad to our kids. One of the hardest things in parenthood is to learn how to communicate with our kids and try to give them the right message that won’t backfire on both of us. After all, as James Lehman says “It is important to realize that what comes out of our mouth doesn’t always get into your child’s ear the way we want it to!”

People say hurtful things to each other every day but the most important thing is to go back to your child and say “Sorry child, I did not mean what I said. I love you a lot”. As much as the bad words or bad attitude remains in your child’s brain, the act of apologizing will be remembered much more.

There are lots of harmful words we say to our kids when we are stressed, frustrated or mad but also there are harmless sentences, behaviors and common verbal gaffes that we say or do without realizing that they can trigger resentment, anger and undesirable sentiments in our kids. Some of these expressions are:

“Don’t cry!”

A blameless expression we say to our kids when they are facing an emotional situation. By saying that, we are telling our child that his tears are inappropriate. It is ok to let our kids show their emotions and real feelings. By naming the feeling “Are you afraid? Are you hurt?” we are giving them the words to express themselves which makes them talk about their feelings and thus stop crying.

 “Why can’t you be like your sister/brother?”

Comparing siblings to each other increases the arguments and quarrels between your child and you. It is good to give an example about a good attribute in a friend or sibling but never compare. Each child is unique and has his/her own personality, attributes and temperament. Comparing will diminish their self-esteem. Instead, praise your child’s achievements and encourage him/her.

“That’s not how we do it. Let me fix it.”

When asking your child for help, show him the technique, be patient and hold yourself back from jumping in and doing the work. Your child needs to learn from his own mistakes which will help him to master the job in the future. Be collaborative if you need to step in and help.

“Hurry up!”

Who doesn’t say that to their child: “Hurry up”? We are all in a hurry to eat, go in the car, go for a ride, to the supermarket, and visit our family. The word “Hurry up” is not the problem but the tone of voice we use to push our kids to hurry creates frustration and guilty feelings. This guilt will not make our kids faster but makes them sad. We should try to manage our time with our kids instead of just pressuring them to hurry.

 “Because I said so!”

Very powerful sentence we have all used, which makes our kids feel weak and ineffective. We should avoid using it and try to give them a reasonable explanation to make them understand the context.

“You’re so smart. You’re so pretty.”

Positive encouragements can sometime limit your child’s capabilities. It is very good to praise your child’s efforts but pay attention not to label it. By building your child’sconfidence you are building also the fear of failure. Your child will always fear not to be up to the level you have set for him. He will always fear to try new things or more challenging stuff simply because he might not be the first.

 “That’s ridiculous, how can you be upset of that?”

Kids, especially teenagers get cranky or frustrated from simple things that we adults feel insignificant. Try not to undermine your child’s feelings. What looks irrelevant to you may be very important to your child. Try to listen and understand the reason behind his frustration and his behavior.

“Good job, good boy!”

Praising your child for every little thing he does becomes meaningless.  Praise your child when he does great effort and be specific and clear. Praise his behavior and save the tribute to something truly merited.

“Stop it right now, or else…”

Threatening your child without really executing the threat will damage your relation with your child and will teach him that your threats are meaningless. When you are frustrated, try to redirect your threat on something more appropriate as removing your child from the situation or performing time–outs.

No matter what you say you should always think before you address a child. A small common verbal gaffe can harm a child for a life despite his parent’s intentions. In moments of extreme anger, refocus, take a deep breath and leave the argument. It is better to retrieve and calm down than to stay and say something hateful. Always aspire for a better relationship with your kids. Try to alter your vocabulary, set up parameters, and be positive and realistic.

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