- Family and Parenting
8 Things Not to Say to Your Kids
Parenting is hard, really hard. And kids are frustrating, really frustrating. However, even though kids can be frustrating, it's us adults who are supposed to keep a level head and teach them to be better human beings and better listeners by guiding them through life with a steady hand, which means not losing our heads when they make us want to strangle them. Try not to say the following things if you can avoid it.
"Your mother made me hit you."
As a parent, you want to avoid putting responsibility for your behaviors on your partner and pitting your child against your partner. Parents are only human and often want the children to love them more than their mate, but it's a guarantee that trying to manipulate the feelings of your children toward your partner will boomerang on you in all sorts of ways. You'll destroy your relationship with your children and your partner at the same time. Maybe your kids say they hate you more than they hate your husband, but that's no reason to try to even things out. At a very young age, your kids will figure out your game and start manipulating you. Like any mature adult, take responsible for your actions and never blame somebody else for the things you say. This goes all the way down to the simple things like "your mother doesn't want you to have cookies." You and your partner need to be part of the same team. Always.
"I don't care if you eat the dishwashing tab."
Don't start any sentence with "I don't care," even if you don't care because there are lots of times when you won't care. Sometimes the kids will drive you so far up the wall with their inane questions (particularly when they're little), that there will probably come a time where you don't care if they run in the street or fill their rooms with water or throw the cat out the window because you've lost the will to live chasing them around or telling them to do the same thing over and over and over again. Kids love to test. Remember that. They always want to know that you care, even if it doesn't seem like it. And if you say you don't care about something, it's entirely likely that your child will go ahead and do the thing you don't care about. Children are very literal.
"Go ahead and stab your brother with that fork, see what happens."
Children just don't know about things like adults know about things. They don't know, even though it seems like they should, about sticking things in outlets and putting their fingers up the cat's butt and setting things on fire to see the pretty flames. And you may have told them a hundred times not to do something and they ask you anyway. That's what kids do. Look, you signed up for this job, so really, you're the idiot here. Don't turn your kids into idiots by telling them to do things that may get themselves or their little brothers or their little sisters hurt or killed. Parents are always supposed to do things to protect their children.
"Why are you so stupid?"
By most objective standards that measure adult intelligence, a four-year-old is stupid. At least, they seem really stupid sometimes. However, it's incredibly important for a child's development and self-esteem that they not be denigrated for their curiousness or their lack of listening skills by being called stupid. A child who is called stupid often enough will begin to believe he is stupid and that leads to all kinds of bad outcomes. Also, it's really pathetic and crappy parenting. If you can't take the time to explain why one of a child's choices isn't the wisest and prefer to simply tell them that they're stupid, then you should give your children up for adoption to a family that cares.
"Only clowns run around with knives."
This is pretty simple. Children like clowns. Children think that running around with knives is interesting. Next thing you know, your child has picked the sharpest object in the house and is running around at light speed shouting "I'm a clown! I'm a clown!" Kids don't usually understand that when you say "only clowns run around with knives" that you're saying that because you think it's a bad thing. That's not immediately obvious to a child.
What's the worst thing you can say to your kid?
"I don't love you either."
Most kids will get to the age and a level of frustration with you where they will say the meanest things, like "I hate you" or "I don't love you anymore" and you'll want to sell them on the black market. But remember, you're the adult. No matter how mad you might be, it's never appropriate to respond to a four-year-old like a four-year-old. You're the adult. And unlike you, who will eventually digest and comprehend your child's statement and forgive them easily. Your child will remember what you said forever and they'll probably have nightmares when they get into their 30's about it asking themselves "did my father really love me?". Further, your child is probably simply not mature enough not to be really hurt by what you say. And if you happen to blurt out something really nasty in response to your kid, just apologize and remind them how much you love them.
"Shut the f*** up!"
Anyone who has kids or who's been around them knows that, despite the embarrassing nature of the admission, we've all wanted to say this to our kids or have said it to our kids. After all, sometimes kids will ask you the same question 100 times even though you told them "no" 100 times. At some point STFU seems justified. However, depending on what age you're hurling the profanity at them, they may not even have heard the word. Plus, they're then going to repeat it to somebody else. So, kudos for being one to start that. Even "shut up!" is probably inappropriate, though sometimes it just feels good to let it out. Anyway, you're the parent and the parent is supposed to demonstrate to the child that, no matter how frustrated, there's a rational, calm way to deal with frustration. This sets a good example for the child and teaches them something important.
"People don't put cats in microwaves."
Don't put an idea in a child's head if you don't have to. They think up plenty of ridiculous things on their own. Even if you think you're being funny: "don't run in the zoo and spit on the elephant", it's highly likely that your child is going to imagine herself doing exactly the thing that you say. At all time, you want to avoid over-explaining or over-analyzing any particular action a child takes and boil it down to good choices and bad choices and why they're good or bad choices. Keep it simple, like "the cat will get hurt" or "mean people do that" or whatever. Remember, anything you say that describes and action is an action that your child will likely try out.
Bonus: "Don't tell your father I gave you that candy."
This is a classic. You're trying to curry favor with your child by giving her something you know your partner won't give her. So this is bad in all kinds of ways. First, your child will either use it against you or use it against your partner and that will cause stress between all parties concerned. Then, of course, it will cause a rift between you and your partner. Maybe you don't care about candy, but your partner does. Maybe you don't want your kid watching television, but your partner doesn't care. Good parenting means being on the same page and if you're not on the same page, your children will notice.
More reading on this subject
- What Not to Say to Your Kids: 9 No-Nos | Education.com
As a parent, it's impossible to keep your cool 24/7. There's only so much whining and tantrums a person can take before she snapsâeven super mom loses her temper from time to time! Find out what not to say to your kids here.
- How To Talk To Your Kids - Woman's Day
Find out how to talk to your kids (and what not to say) at WomansDay.com.
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