Seven Things You Should Never Say To Your Children
Kids learn 100 times more from watching and listening than from being told what to do or how to behave.
Our importance in their life cannot be overstated. We are the providers. Our children rely on us entirely for food and shelter, safety, comfort, guidance and support.
They are avid learners. Curious beyond understanding. To them the right way to act, speak and behave is the way that we act, speak and behave.
They learn about themselves from their relationship with us.
Furthermore, when you get angry you are teaching them that getting angry is the way to go.
Put yourself in their position. Be positive. Create an inner voice in them that reminds them of their worth.
Below are seven ways you should avoid saying to kids.
1. “You’re an idiot”(… bad child, … selfish, …clumsy, … ungrateful. Any gratuitous insult).
Always talk about the action or event, not the child.
By criticising the child you are telling them that (a) this defines who and how they are, and (b) you don’t like or value them (implying that no-one will).
Most of the time they will already know that what they did was not good. That will make them feel bad enough. Emphasising it will only make them feel worse.
Say something about it. It can’t go by without a remark. But don’t make yourself feel better by insulting the child.
Try: “That was a silly thing to do” Or “You know that was wrong”. You can be firm about it, but never make it about the child.
2. “I’ll give you something to cry about”/”Stop snivelling”
Children are learning to deal with their emotions. Suppressing them, even in adulthood, has an impact on mental wellbeing. They are entitled to feel the way they are feeling, and to express those feelings.
Understand why they are crying. Let them know that you empathise. You can hold your line if necessary, but allow them to let the emotion out. Pressing your point is unlikely to be effective when someone is in an emotional state. Children will be all about the emotion, not the logic.
Try: “I understand why you are crying, and that’s OK. Remember that what you did was wrong”. Or “Let’s talk about what is upsetting you and what we can do about it”.
3. “You’re too fat”. (Even if you try to say it nicely)
What a shocker.
How to create feelings of low self-esteem, helplessness, worthlessness and a ‘what’s-the-point-I-can’t-do-anything-about-it’ attitude towards everything for the rest of their life!
Eating disorders and mental health issues, here I come.
If your kid is fat, they already know. Not only from their own observation, but most likely from the other kids at school. To society’s shame, they are probably getting bullied.
They really need your support. Your role is to build them up. Help them feel secure in themselves. If their own parents are against them then where can they go?
If they want to talk about it, then discuss the whole issue of body image with them.
If you want to curb their eating, then give them reasons other than their size, such as other health issues, setting a goal to do something that their body weight makes difficult, or focussing on self-control.
Avoid promoting the idea that their appearance determines their worth.
Most importantly, whatever lifestyle changes they make, you must also make.
Try: Dialogue to help them come up with their own way of addressing their body weight. Remember that carrying body fat does not mean that you are unhealthy. I strongly refer readers to this group.
4. “You can’t do that”. “You won’t succeed”.
Optimism and self-confidence need to be fed. By you.
In their lives, and in their interactions with the rest of the world, you are everything. Invincible, best at everything, intellectual giants.
And they want to be just like you. Your evaluation of them is critical.
If you tell them they can’t, then that is what they will believe. The are doomed to lack of success before they start.
There is plenty about motivation and positive vibes everywhere, so I won’t go on about it, but know this.
They will get encouragement from other people. If they receive it from others and get discouragement from you, you know that’s going to be bad for your relationship. It will put a gap between you and your children.
Try: “That’s a great idea. Can help you with it?”
5. “Can’t you do anything right?”
Too often we get frustrated when our kids are unsuccessful in what they are trying to do.
Letting our children believe that we think they are incompetent will result in them believing it, thereby making it a reality.
After that, whenever they attempt something failure is guaranteed because they will be starting off with the belief that they can’t do anything. They will be expecting failure, and they will get it.
Things that appear easy to them turn out to be more difficult than they thought.
Pe patient. Be understading.
Try: “Never mind. Try again. You’ll get next time.”
6. “Why can’t you be like your brother (sister, kid next door, kid on television, whatever)?”
Why on earth would you want your child to be like somebody they are not?
Each child is his or her own person. They sure don’t have to be like someone else just to please you.
Saying that is telling them you like the other child more than you like them. They will devote their energies and purpose to pleasing you for the rest of your life.
Or realise that they never will please you and cut you out.
Your child cannot be perfect any more than you can.
Try not to make your daughter or son into the person you wanted to be but couldn’t.
7. “Give (random person) a big hug/kiss.”
Children must know that that they have control over their own bodies. Being an adult does not confer a right of tactile displays of affection from a child.
Children have a healthy innate awareness of stranger danger which should be encouraged, without allowing it to become a paranoia.
Their bodies, their space and their relationships are their own. Hugs and kisses are valuable expressions of feeling. They are not to be given away lightly.
Teaching our kids that they are obliged to allow unwanted touching creates vulnerability to abuse, both as children and, especially for girls, throughout life.
Try: Finding other ways to enable them to show respect, affection or politeness to adults if they don’t want to hug.
I hope you have found these snippets helpful. Each one is an essay in itself, and of course the list is by no means exhaustive.
It is my vision to see a world where all children grow into the wonderful human beings they are born to be.
Every parent is doing the best they can with what they have got.
Perhaps at Understanding Families we can give you a little more to help you do the best you can.