Parenting is no easy task- it’s a hard job, and it doesn’t come with an instruction manual. And no matter how good our intentions may be, sometimes our words just don’t come outright. However, words have power, and when it comes to children we should use them carefully.
We’ve all been there- stress and tasks just keep piling up, and our children also need our focus and attention. In turn, we strive to do our best, but we end up saying the wrong things either out of anger or out of ignorance. Ignorance doesn’t mean you are stupid or even unintelligent- it simply means you don’t realize. And in many cases, it’s very human to say what comes to mind, and think about the implications of our words later.
As I said, words have power. And the phrases we use with and towards our children frame the way they see and perceive their world. If you are wondering what phrases you should never use with your children, here are the top 7, according to experts.
1. You’re okay.
When your child comes to you, crying and upset, our first instinct is to make them better. And while it may be tempting to tell them they are okay, or that they are fine- experts warn against this. When you tell your child, “You’re okay.” when they are upset and hurting, you are telling them their emotions aren’t valid. Jenn Berman, Psy. D., the author of ‘The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids” says, “Your child is crying because he’s not okay.” Rather than dismissing them, help them work through the moment in which they feel vulnerable.
2. You make me so mad.
Amy Martin, a psychotherapist from Northeastern University, explains that it’s best not to place blame on your children for your difficult emotions. Instead, when your child is misbehaving, she suggests saying “I don’t like it when you do that,” and then explain why.
3. We can’t afford that.
When your child is begging you for yet another expensive toy, it’s easy to be quick with a response such as this one. However, when you say “We can’t afford that,” it makes your child believe there is something wrong with your finances, or that you have lost control of them, and this is scary to a child. Jayne Pearl, the author of “Kids and Money” says to use a replacement, like “We’re not going to buy that because we are saving our money for more important things.”
4. I’m on a diet.
Marc S. Jacobson, M.D professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Nassau University Medical Center, in East Meadow New York says that when your child sees you stepping on the scale frequently, and obsessing about food- it can teach them to have an unhealthy mindset towards their body. Rather than saying “I’m on a diet” or “I’m fat and need to lose weight,” say, “I am eating healthy food because it makes me feel good.” Or, “I love exercising, it makes me feel strong and healthy!”
5. I hate my job.
After a long, hard day at work, it’s tempting to complain or vent about your job. But, kids hear everything we say, even when we aren’t talking directly to them. Saying “I hate my job” gives them the mindset that working is not something anyone wants to do. Rather than using verbiage like this, talk about career opportunities and paths and encourage your little one to find a path they enjoy, says Amy Martin.
6. Be careful.
When you notice your child doing a difficult task, and your anxiety is on high alert, it may be easy to let this one slip. But Deborah Carlisle Soloman, the author of “Baby Knows Best” explains that when you say this, your child will likely lose their focus. In turn, they may not be able to be careful. Rather than saying “Be careful,” watch them closely and be prepared to help them if necessary.
7. Everything will be okay.
When things go wrong, we want to ease our children’s fears and frustrations, but sending the message that everything always turns out well won’t prepare them for real life. For example, let’s say your child entered a contest at school, and they didn’t win. Telling them that “everything will be okay” sends the wrong message, says, Martin. Instead, say, “I know it didn’t work out well this time, but we will try harder next time.” This encourages them to work harder towards their goals, without setting them up to believe that everything always works out.