Raising a child puts parents in complex situations and presents them with many challenges. Nowadays there is a greater awareness of the importance of interpersonal communication within the family unit. It often feels many of the old barriers between parents and their offspring have been torn down, especially when compared to the previous generation.
The tone parents use with their kids, as well as what they say requires ongoing sensitivity and awareness. There are times when you think that what you tell your child is exactly what they need to hear, but end up causing damage rather than encouraging them. The following are the ten most commonly used sentences parents say to their kids but shouldn’t.
1. “Hurry up!”
Your son finally learned to tie his shoelaces on his own, but it takes a very long time, your daughter is playing with her breakfast instead of eating it, and both of them are going to be late for school. Being a good parent, you want to make sure they’re not late for school, so you blurt out a “hurry up!”. Instead of getting them to speed up, you’re actually causing them stress. Soften your tone and say “let’s hurry” instead. This tells your child that you’re on the same team rather than making them feel you’re blaming them. An even better option would be to turn it into a game (“Let’s see who finishes their breakfast fastest!”).
2. “You’re okay.”
When your child is in distress and crying, your parental instinct will tell you to reassure them by telling them that it’s okay. The only problem is, that when you tell them they’re okay, the message they get is that you are ignoring their distress. The reason your kid is crying is because they are not ok. What you should do instead is give them a hug and acknowledge their situation (“That was a scary moment”), and then ask them if they want a kiss or a Band-Aid to make it better.
3. “Practice makes perfect.”
The core of the saying is true – the more time you devote to learning a skill, the better you will become at it. However, the message your child is hearing is “what you’re doing is not perfect”. It puts pressure on your child to excel out of fear of disappointing you. Children beat themselves up feeling they keep practicing, yet they’re still not good enough. The way to encourage your child to improve is by showing them how great improving feels, giving them a sense of pride in their own advancement.
4. “I’m on a diet.”
It’s great to stay healthy, but your kid doesn’t need to hear about it. Whether you’re checking your weight every day, calling yourself “fat” or repeating the “I’m on a diet” mantra – your child hears it, and it may lead to them developing an unhealthy body image. You can lead by example and say “I’m eating healthy because I how it feels” or “It’s a lovely day, I think I’ll go for a run.” Using this type of phrasing will encourage your child to join you in a positive way.
5. “Great job.”
You may think that using such generic affirmation phrases helps build your child’s confidence, but research has shown that it actually makes them dependent on your affirmation instead of their own motivation. Congratulate your kid when they earned it and be more specific (“You were really good at sharing today” or “Nice pass, I how you looked for your teammates”).
6. “Let me help.”
How many times have you seen your kid struggling with a task or a game and rushed to their aid? Even though the intention is good, doing it too soon can undermine your child’s independence and cause them to always look at others for answers. Your best way to help them is to ask guiding questions such as “Do you think that piece should go there? Why do you think that? Okay, let’s try it.”
7. “We can’t afford that.”
Every parent had to endure their child begging for something at the store, and often the easiest way out is to state money trouble. The only problem is that your child interprets that as you not being responsible, or that the family unit is in financial danger, which leads to stress. It will also cause anger if you then buy something expensive for the house, making them feel their needs are unimportant to you. You can tell them that you won’t buy them the toy or candy that they want because you’re “saving money for more important things”. If your child persists in the matter, it can be a great doorway into a conversation about finance and saving.
8. “No dessert until you finish your meal.”
This phrase teaches the kid the value of the dessert rather than the meal. It makes the child want the dessert more and feel the meal is nothing but an obstruction. The correct phrasing is similar but subtly different: “First we eat our meal, then we eat the dessert”. It may sound the same, but it doesn’t make the meal feel punishment, but rather a natural step.
|9. “Don’t talk to strangers.”|
While this is sound advice, it’s difficult for a young child to understand. Children associate “stranger” with a scary or unpleasant person, and might be encouraged to talk to someone who is nice to them. You may also drive your kid away from policemen and other civil servants they don’t know who may be able to help them. Add to that the fact that many child abductions occur by someone the child has previously known, and you have a rule of thumb that isn’t effective. The correct way to protect them, is to ask them “What do you do if a person you don’t know offers you candy and a ride home?” and let them explain to you the proper course of action and correct them if needed. It is also recommended to repeat this safety mantra: “If anyone makes you feel scared, confused, or sad, you need to tell me straight away.”
10. “Be careful.”
Using this phrase when you see your child doing something potentially dangerous can distract them and actively cause an accident. The correct course of action is to move quietly and calmly closer to them while keeping an eye on what they’re doing.
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